Picture Book 10 for 10: Friendship Favorites

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“…nothing breaks this golden strand

spun by heart and not by hand.”

Clare Mishica

Picture Book 10 for 10 is the brainchild of Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robeck of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. During this annual event, now in its fifth year, teachers, librarians, and book lovers create lists of 10 essential picture books. Cathy and Mandy collect and share these lists, and everyone is richer because of their efforts. Be sure to visit their blogs to see their lists, and check out links to other lists. Thank you, Cathy and Mandy, for organizing this celebration of children’s literature! This is my third year joining in the fun. Last year, I devoted my list to favorite books by Jane Yolen, and the year before, I shared favorite wordless picture books.

Last month, Jillian Heise and Kim McSorley wrote about their “Top Ten Favorite Picture Book Friendships” for Nerdy Book Club. Their list included many of my favorites, especially several of Mo Willems Piggy & Elephant books, Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle and Deborah Freedman’s The Story of Fish and Snail. But their list got me thinking about picture book friendships from the past, stories that my own children loved when they were small and stories that I’ve shared with my students throughout my teaching career. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorites.

Amos & Boris  by William Steig (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1971)

9780374302788_xlgI adore this timeless tale of friendship between a mouse and a whale. I spouted off about this book about a year ago. You can read more about it here.

Rugby & Rosie, by Nan Parson Rossiter (Dutton, 1997)


This is a classic boy-and-his-dog tale with a twist. Rugby and the nameless narrator are always together: on the way to the bus, after school, and “he sleeps beside my bed at night.” Rosie, a puppy being trained as a guide dog, soon arrives and quickly becomes part of the family. Rossiter’s story follows the friends throughout the year of Rosie’s training and how the family deals with their sadness after Rosie’s inevitable departure.

Oma and Bobo by Amy Schwartz (Bradbury Press, 1987)

665429Alice is thrilled when her mother tells her she can have a dog for her birthday. She finds Bobo at the local animal shelter. When Alice asks her grandmother, Oma, what she should call the dog, Oma replies, “Trouble, Bother, and Nuisance.” Of course Oma’s feelings change by the end of the book and she plays a key role in Bobo’s success at obedience school.

Mrs. Katz and Tush, by Patricia Polacco (Bantam Books for Young Readers, 1992)


Patricia Polacco is a master at telling tales of friendship, and this story of an elderly woman and her young neighbor is a classic. Strangers at the beginning of the book, Larnel, Mrs. Katz, and her kitten, Tush quickly become friends. Larnel learns much from Mrs. Katz about caring, family, and tradition.

Chicken Sunday, by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books, 1992)


Another classic tale of intergenerational and multicultural friendship. As in many of her other books, Polacco combines illustration with family photographs, which give this book a very personal dimension. Kids love speculating about who’s who in the pictures on Miss Eula’s sideboard.

Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books, 1994)


Polacco tells this heart-breaking true story of two young Union soldiers with honesty and sensitivity. At the end of the book, Polacco shares how this story has been passed down through her family for generations. Thank you, Patricia Polacco, for sharing it with us.

Frog and Toad are Friends, by Arnold Lobel (Harper Trophy, 1970)


Is there anyone who doesn’t love Frog & Toad? In this perennial favorite, Lobel depicts Frog and Toad weathering the everyday trials and tribulations of friendship with humor and compassion.

Farfallina & Marcel, by Holly Keller, (Greenwillow Books, 2002)


Holly Keller’s gentle tale follows the friendship between Farfallina, a caterpillar, and Marcel, a goose, and how they withstand separation and BIG changes.

The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Kathryn Brown. (Harcourt, 1996)


The old woman of the title has outlived all her friends and makes up for her loneliness by only giving names to things that will outlive her. But when a shy, brown dog arrives at her gate, the old woman reconsiders the wisdom of this decision. Rylant explores our universal need for companionship with tender understanding.

Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 2000)


Poor Wemberly worries about everything. Her family tells her she worries too much, but this doesn’t stop her. Wemberly’s list of worries gets even longer when she starts school. But when she makes a new friend, Jewel, her worries are forgotten. Wemberly Worried is a fine example of Henkes’s mastery of capturing the feelings of preschool and primary kids.

There are so many other books I could have included on this list. What’s your favorite tale of friendship?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


Yesterday, Donalyn Miller, in a post on the Nerdy Book Club blog, confessed that she was in a reading slump. She stated that she loses interest after she starts a book and has even chosen to watch TV over reading! I read all this with relief, realizing I’m not alone. When I went back to her post later in the evening, there were ninety comments! Ninety! Almost all of them were from teachers who were also feeling overwhelmed by their other commitments and hadn’t had the time or energy to read much lately.

I bring all this up because, even though I have stacks of books everywhere, many of the books I tried to read last week have a bookmark after the first or second chapter. I’m afraid my computer is going to crash because I have so many tabs open to blogs I haven’t had time to read. Don’t even get me started on the newspaper!

My solution to this situation? A trip to the library. I know this seems ridiculous: Why bring in more books if you can’t finish the ones you have? Because my library has all the latest picture books and early readers. If they can’t pull me out of a slump, nothing can.

My favorite book from this visit was Penny and Her Marble (Greenwillow Books, 2013), by Kevin Henkes. It is impossible for me to overstate how much I love Kevin Henkes’s books. And Penny is the latest in a long line of lovable characters created by Henkes.

ImageOne of Penny’s most endearing traits is that she is self-reliant. Her problems are hers, and she solves them on her own. In Penny and Her Marble, she sees a beautiful blue marble, which seems to belong to no one, on her neighbor’s lawn and she picks it up and puts it in her pocket. Once she gets home, however, her conscience gets the better of her and she is haunted by the marble.

Penny never mentions any of her worries to her parents, yet they sense that something is bothering Penny. They support her in subtle ways, such as offering to bake her favorite cookies. Penny does the right thing in the end, and is rewarded for her honesty, but not in a preachy, LEARN THIS LESSON kind of way. Did I mention I am in awe of Kevin Henkes?  How does he accomplish this? He never hits a wrong note and he completely understands children and how their minds operate.

When I began this blog, I did intend to write about how I would use certain books to meet the Common Core State Standards, and I do this often enough. And although this book could be used to address several first grade standards, I would read it aloud to kids just because I love it. I would read it aloud to them because Penny is an imaginative, creative character I’d want for a friend. And I’d read it to them because they will recognize themselves in Penny.

Don’t miss Penny’s other adventures in Penny and Her Song (2012) and Penny and Her Doll (2012). They are the perfect anecdote to any reading slump.

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Dont’ forget to find out what others are reading today by visiting Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.