Gillian Shield’s latest story, When the World Is Full of Friends, proves that there is always room for charming animal stories with simple lessons. Four rabbit children live an idyllic life; cozy and safe, the siblings play under their watchful parents’ eyes near a busy stream. When a squirrel family moves in on the other side of the stream, the young rabbits are determined to meet these potential new friends, no matter how difficult crossing the water may be.
On the outside, this seems like an unpretentious tale about making new friends. However, Shields and illustrator Anna Currey also deliver a gentle moral message about problem-solving, teamwork and determination. Each little rabbit has a skill or interest that lends something unique to the task at hand. Even the tiny baby rabbit has something to contribute, and the parents jump in to help their offspring as well.
Shields’ story is simple, but it unfolds naturally and makes for a perfect read-aloud. Currey’s colorful and lush illustrations have a timeless charm that is reminiscent of Beatrix Potter; the rabbits frolic in sheep-and-cow-filled meadows warmed by the sun and dotted with flowers, and even the wide stream is placid and soft. The animals’ expressions vary from intensely thoughtful to pure excitement, but they’re consistently kind, making this story ideal for bedtime.
Bookended by rhyming messages, When the World Is Full of Friends has echoes of an Aesop’s fable. When your little one asks for just one more story, you’ll be glad the world is full of books like this one.