The start of a new year is a great time for making new friends! If your young one is developing into a wallflower instead of a social butterfly, check out the terrific books below. These spirited stories will inspire introverts of all ages to step outside their comfort zones and connect.
ADVENTURE AT SEA
A verbal mix-up leads to big fun in Kat Yeh’s The Friend Ship. Hedgehog spends her time alone, “curled up in a prickly little ball.” When she overhears the words “friendship is out there,” she’s inspired to hit the high seas to find what she thinks is an actual ship. She sets sail in her own boat, asking the animals she meets along the way if they’ve seen the Friend Ship. Nobody has, but everyone wants to, and Hedgehog is soon joined in her search by a beaver, a herd of deer, a mouse, a polar bear—even an elephant! The members of this menagerie are all looking for the same thing, and by story’s end, they’ve definitely found it. Chuck Groenink’s masterful spreads of the shipmates on the water have a classic feel. His critters are irresistible. Who wouldn’t want to befriend this winning bunch?
FRIENDS AGAINST ALL ODDS
Jessica Olien’s adorable Adrift: An Odd Couple of Polar Bears demonstrates the importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to making friends. Karl and Hazel don’t get along. Introverted Hazel savors solitude—she likes to read and daydream—while rowdy Karl enjoys showing off for his bear buddies. When these polar opposites (I couldn’t pass up the pun . . .) get stranded on an ice floe in the middle of the ocean, they realize they’re stuck with each other. But once the ice floe starts to melt, they begin to bond and discover they’re more alike than they ever imagined. Olien’s cute, comic illustrations feature seals, penguins and other cold-weather creatures, all vividly depicted in bold lines and bright colors (check out Hazel’s polka-dotted scarf!). Adrift is a delightful reminder that friendship can blossom where it’s least expected.
In the clever, quirky Before You, Rebecca Doughty uses friendship and the sense of fulfillment it brings as the basis for a series of witty comparisons: “Before you . . . I was a bowl without a fish. A birthday cake without a wish.” Doughty explores the idea of “before”—pre-friendship—throughout the first half of the book; the latter half she devotes to the time when buddies finally find each other: “I had a cup, you brought the tea. I had a boat, you brought the sea.” In minimalist ink-and-paint drawings, she uses her trademark deadpan visual style to hilarious effect—there’s a frowning four-leaf clover in need of luck, and a droopy noodle who could use some soup—and the result is a book that will appeal to readers of all ages. This is a nifty little volume that celebrates the power of companionship.