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New School, New Friends — 6 Books To Prepare Kids For Making Pals Of All Kinds

Aug 22, 2018

While summer evenings stretch into an abundance of bike rides, rock-collecting walks, outdoor movies and just a feeling of breezy summertime ease (minus the impact on bedtime routines and ice cream tantrums — let’s save those for another article), as soon as August is here, there is an awareness of the approaching fall. September still represents the start of a new year for many of us who have far surpassed school years. So engrained is that blend of excitement and anxiousness as a new grade, a new teacher and new experiences approach.

As my daughter gets ready to enter grade one, I am already starting to see and hear her excitement, questions and nerves. This year, in addition to her countdown to being officially able to play in the “big playground," she will also be going to a new school, as we moved just before the summer. To help her navigate the school year ahead, we’re adding some books to our nighttime lineup this month. These are great reads that focus on friendship and also address being yourself and making friends of all kinds. It's an important lesson for the new kid in class from two perspectives: as the one who is new and thus unique, and as the one who has the opportunity to befriend anyone, even someone who may be unique in some other way.

Chrysanthemum (Written And Illustrated By Kevin Henkes)

Book cover: Chrysanthemum

This well-loved tale of a little mouse who goes from loving to loathing her name when she is teased about it at school offers many valuable lessons for young ones. In the story, Chrysanthemum is singled out and teased for being different. The author depicts the impact this behaviour can have on others through the growing anxiety we see Chrysanthemum go through, despite her parents’ efforts to comfort and soothe her through reassurances that her name is, “precious and priceless and fascinating and winsome." The morals about both accepting who you are no matter what others may think and also accepting other people’s differences are important for kids of all ages. Recommended for ages 3 to 7.

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Yak And Dove (Written By Kyo Maclear And Illustrated By Esme Shapiro)

Book cover: Yak and Dove

This is a sweet story about how when it comes to friends, sometimes opposites attract. Yak and Dove are completely different with Yak being big, furry and the quiet type, whereas Dove is small, feathered and quite loud. One day, upon discussing their differences, the best friends question if they are truly compatible. The story is told in three chapters, unique for a children’s book, and each chapter is in itself a creative dialogue between the main characters taking young readers along Yak and Dove’s journey to discovering that sometimes differences are what make the best friendships work. Recommended for ages 5 to 8.

Yo! Yes? (Written And Illustrated By Chris Raschka)

Book cover: Yo! Yes?

Made up of vibrant, expressive illustrations of each main character and filled with few words, Yo! Yes? takes the reader through a progression of how two boys, seemingly different, meet and eventually make a pact of friendship. The simple dialogue between the main characters, told in short, rhythmic words, makes this book an easy and fun one for young readers to read along to and quickly grasp. Recommended for ages 3 to 7.

We’re All Wonders (Written And Illustrated By R.J. Palacio)

Book cover: We're All Wonders

This book is a great opener to discussions about empathy, acceptance and kindness. An adaptation of the book Wonder, this version takes younger readers through the story of Auggie, a boy who is like any other kid in every way even though people look at him differently. The honest portrayal of Auggie’s feelings when he encounters people who look at and treat him differently paired with beautiful fantastical illustrations of Auggie’s imaginary retreat make it easy for young readers to understand what he is going through. And the message that everyone has the opportunity to “look with kindness” is both powerful and important for young ones who are sometimes unsure how to address other people’s differences. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.

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Chester’s Way (Written And Illustrated By Kevin Henkes)

Book cover: Chester's Way

Chester’s Way is another relatable story by Kevin Henkes, this time focusing on some great friendship lessons. Best friends Chester and Wilson do everything together, in their own way. One day they come upon their new neighbour, Lily, who does everything in her own way — and their initial reaction is to avoid her. When Lily does something that surprises and helps Chester and Wilson, they decide to give her a chance. This charming story is realistic and relatable at its core, and with detailed illustrations that bring it to life, it’s easy to get enthralled. The twosome eventually learn how much fun it can be to do things a little differently and that, when it comes to friends, there is always room for one more. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.

Zero (Written And Illustrated By Kathryn Otoshi)

Book cover: Zero

This story about finding one’s own value is creatively depicted through the main character, Zero, who is unsure how she fits in with the other numbers. The use of numbers as characters and the related play on words with Zero literally questioning her value makes this story about self-value and self-acceptance compelling for younger and older kids alike. While debating how best to fit in and be valuable, as she “pushes and pulls, stretches and straightens, forces and flattens herself," Zero learns in the end that we can only be ourselves and that everyone has value. Recommended for ages 3 to 7.

Article Author Jayani Perera
Jayani Perera

Jayani Perera loves to sing songs to her young children — to the wrong tunes, in an effort to simultaneously irritate and set them off in a tirade of giggles. Finding happiness in the day-to-day goes hand-in-hand with Jayani’s quest for balance after coming out of the new-mom fog that got thicker after her second child. A former foodie enthusiast, city event-chaser and lover of books, Jayani now fills free time mastering the Instant Pot, birthday party hopping and reading books that overuse the term “Pinkalicious” (one time is too much). And when she isn't doing any of the above, she keeps busy as a public relations consultant and a freelance writer. She is embracing this journey, with a loving spouse by her side, armed with humour, gratefulness and coffee, and trying to be mindful of the moments that matter.

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