Trying to make new friends can feel like being lost in a blizzard! These picture books show how snowstorms can bring friends together in lots of wondrous ways.
Words to Make a Friend
Excitement permeates every page of Donna Jo Napoli and Naoko Stoop’s Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English, a joyful ode to friendship between new neighbors.
As a Japanese girl and her family move into their home on a wintry day, the newcomer looks out her bedroom window and spots another girl who is outside playing. She quickly unpacks her snow gear and heads out to join her. The pair don’t let a language barrier get in their way, greeting each other with a “hello” and a “konnichiwa.” As they frolic in the flurries and build a snow monster together, they toss phrases back and forth like snowballs, trading “Let’s play!” for “Asobou!” and “shiver shiver” for “buru buru.” Napoli limits the text to a few carefully chosen words of dialogue like these, allowing the beauty of the snowstorm and the girls’ delight to speak for themselves as the story unfolds with natural momentum.
Stoop’s illustrations capture falling snow so exceptionally that readers will practically feel the frosty flakes falling onto their cold cheeks. Against this backdrop, the newcomer’s bright yellow boots and red coat and her new friend’s lilac parka and pink earmuffs pop wonderfully. The girls eventually go inside to warm up, enjoy a snack and try some origami. Their fun continues with such ease that a firm friendship seems bound to form.
Words to Make a Friend captures the energy of a budding bond and a swirling snow day, extolling the fun of exploring cultural differences while highlighting the curiosity that brings two strangers together and turns them into friends.
★ Friends Are Friends, Forever
In a story inspired by her own childhood move from China to North Carolina, author Dane Liu offers a lovely tribute to friendships old and new. Her writing is lyrical and detailed. “In our town, the winter howls,” the book opens. “Heavy flakes swarm and glaze the earth.” Indeed, a storm is brewing. Just before the Lunar New Year, Dandan informs her best friend, Yueyue, that she and her family are moving far away to America.
Dandan savors every moment of their annual traditions, knowing it’ll be the last time they’ll share them. There’s a festive meal featuring her grandmother Nainai’s dumplings, a fireworks display and the fun of a special art project. Dandan and Yueyue cut snowflakes out of red paper, dip them in water and freeze them overnight, then hang their ornaments from a tree the next morning. “Our best snowflakes yet,” Yueyue proclaims. “And my last,” Dandan says quietly.
Lynn Scurfield’s art begins with enchanting, vibrantly colored scenes of Dandan’s life in China: The best friends stroll down a snowy sidewalk, their expectant faces peer up at a stovetop where “vegetables skid around the wok,” and later, their farewell hug fills an entire spread with bittersweet emotion as Yueyue whispers, “Friends are friends, forever.” A wonderfully conveyed transition spread depicts a plane flying over a big globe, from China to the United States; in the background, daytime and nighttime skies represent the change in time zones. In America, Dandan’s days are besieged by loneliness and shades of gray. One especially evocative illustration shows her asleep in bed as jagged, scrawled English words cover the page, the strange new language haunting Dandan’s dreams.
After a low point, when Dandan’s classmates snicker at the satin dress she wears on her birthday, a freckle-faced friend named Christina emerges, and Dandan’s world slowly becomes lively and filled with color again. Liu brings the story full circle to the next Lunar New Year as the new friends celebrate with an old tradition and a parting gift from Yueyue. Scurfield cleverly unites old and new in a spread that depicts Dandan’s nightstand and her framed photo of her final embrace with Yueyue as, out her bedroom window, Dandan and Christina hang paper snowflakes from the branches of a tree.
While there are many children’s books about the difficulties of moving, Friends Are Friends, Forever is an especially well-crafted tale that explores the depth of old friendships, the loneliness of being a newcomer in a strange place and the beauty of new friends finding each other.
Birds on Wishbone Street
A girl named Moe wants to make the new boy feel welcome on Wishbone Street, a friendly neighborhood filled with families of many nationalities that’s based on a real street in Toronto. Sami, the new kid, has just arrived from Syria, while Moe’s father emigrated from Ireland when he was young. Initially, Moe feels shy about introducing herself. “Do I wave? Go say ‘hi’?” she wonders. “My head is a jumble of words, all shmushed-up together.”
A snowstorm and a shared love of birds soon bring Moe and Sami together. Moe’s dad brought his pet bird to America in a hollowed-out radio—based on a true story of author-illustrator Suzanne Del Rizzo’s father—while Sami’s family raised pigeons in Syria. When Moe and Sami discover a cardinal that has been stunned by the cold during the first blizzard of the season, they cement their friendship by trying to rescue the creature, taking it to a vet with help from a neighbor. Their actions spark a collective effort to help the neighborhood birds. Everyone pitches in to make suet treats and weave winter roosting pockets; Del Rizzo includes instructions for both at the end of the story.
Del Rizzo’s unique art adds dimension to the book’s warm, welcoming neighborhood scenes. She creates illustrations with polymer clay, acrylic glaze and other mixed media, giving depth and texture to each page. Snowflakes truly seem to float in the winter sky, and the blanket used to swaddle the cardinal has realistic folds and wrinkles.
Del Rizzo also excels at presenting a community full of many intertwined familial and social connections while capturing the smaller details of the developing friendship between Moe and Sami. She expertly balances the hustle and bustle of lively outdoor scenes with more intimate indoor moments, such as when the pair share their treasures with each other, including drawings of birds, special feathers and other trinkets. In a lovely touch, Del Rizzo depicts Moe’s and Sami’s collections of keepsakes on the book’s opening and closing endpapers.
Birds on Wishbone Street is a bighearted book that will leave readers eager to discover the many treasures that new friendships hold.