The start of the school year brings big changes for little students: a new teacher, different stuff to study and—yikes!—a classroom filled with unfamiliar faces. If your youngsters are feeling shy about finding new buddies at school or on the playground, then take a peek at the titles below. Each one celebrates the specialness of friendship and proves that bonds can blossom where least expected.
FROM FOES TO FRIENDS
David Elliott’s ever-so-clever tale of two sheep, Baabwaa & Wooliam (ages 4 to 8), has the makings of a classic. Baabwaa and Wooliam are homebodies (she’s a knitter; he’s a bookworm), but when Wooliam gets the adventure itch, they decide to hit the road. All too soon, they encounter a suspicious-looking sheep with an oversize snout, dirty coat and terrible teeth—the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing! The two friends run from the trickster (“If this is an adventure,” Baabwaa says, “I’m not a fan!”), but the chase ends—and friendship ensues—when the wolf asks for help with an unusual undertaking. The story’s droll humor is underscored by Melissa Sweet’s illustrations, which have bold touches of color and smart details (check out the nifty trailer the sheep call home). Here’s hoping Elliott continues the adventures of this wonderful, woolly pair.
Vibrant colors, lively mixed-media illustrations and a dynamic storytelling style make Ed Vere’s Max and Bird (ages 3 and up) extra special. The friendship of Max, a black kitten, and tiny Bird starts off swimmingly. But Max’s observation that his new pal “looks like a tasty snack” is a red flag for Bird. He knows that true friends help each other, and when he asks Max to assist him in learning how to fly, the two embark on an unexpected adventure that teaches them all about the pleasures of partnership. “I don’t want to eat you up,” Max determines in the end. “It’s not what friends do.” The third title from Vere to feature Max—a wide-eyed protagonist with plenty of kittenish appeal—this tale of an unexpected alliance between two contrary creatures definitely soars.
QUEST FOR COMPANIONSHIP
A curious fox named Marco sets out on an unforgettable voyage in Dashka Slater’s The Antlered Ship (ages 4 to 8). Marco is filled with wonder about the world. “Why don’t trees ever talk? How deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea?” he asks himself. When an unusual ship commanded by a deer arrives at the dock, Marco joins the crew with the hope of finding a likeminded fox who will be his friend. The seafarers meet with nasty weather—and an even nastier gang of pirates—but by working as a team, they manage to sail to a marvelous island. In the end, Marco learns that true friendship is closer than he imagined. Terry and Eric Fan’s breathtaking illustrations have an old-fashioned realism that suits the book’s timeless storyline. Little readers will want to follow Marco on this amazing journey.