Friendship is a common theme in children’s literature, and reading books about friendship is a great way to teach kids about how to make friends and what it means to be one.
Books about friendship
Hunter’s Best Friend at School, by Laura Malone Elliott
This is the perfect book to read a child who has a friend that seeks trouble. Hunter’s friend Stripe is always being naughty at school and encouraging Hunter to join right in. Eventually Hunter learns that he can do the right thing and still be Stripe’s friend — Stripe might even follows his example!
Best Friends for Frances, by Russell Hoban
This classic story (1969) about friendship may get a little long for young listeners – but the plot of fickle friendships is timeless. I admit that Frances books bored me when I was a kid, but I enjoy them now. My daughter (6) likes to read these herself, but my preschool boys don’t reach for Frances books.
Bob and Otto, by Robert Bruel
At first I thought this book was a rehash of the same old story of caterpillars who turn into butterflies. But it turned into a lovely lesson for Bob’s friend Otto the worm, who doesn’t change at all but spends all his time digging tunnels. When Otto is discouraged because he’s “still just a big fat worm,” Bob reminds him that all his digging helps trees grow strong and produce leaves – to feed caterpillars – so they can become butterflies. “You’re not just a worm. You’re my best friend.”
I Will Surprise My Friend! by Mo Willems
You won’t want to miss the Elephant and Piggie books, an easy reader series that’s both funny and accessible for beginning readers. In this story Gerald and Piggie each decide to hide and surprise their friend – but with both of them hiding, each starts to wonder about the other. Gerald is concerned that something has happened to Piggie. Piggie thinks that Gerald is having lunch without her. We always share some giggles when reading this series.
Big Dog and Little Dog, by P.D. Eastman
This book (1973) has been around for a long time, but kids still enjoy the story of Ted and Fred, two dogs who are best friends despite having completely different interests.
George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends, by James Marshall
George and Martha are two lovable hippos who do everything together and learn lessons about about friendship along the way. The subtle humor in these books will amuse both parents and kids. Any book in this series will teach your child a lesson or two about friendship.
Frog and Toad Are Friends, by Arnold Lobel
The warm, funny stories about Frog and Toad are delighting another generation. Kids will laugh at the silly stories and be comforted by the steadfast friendship between these two characters.
Cork & Fuzz: Best Friends, by Dori Chaconas
Have you seen this higher level easy reader series yet? We love these books about a muskrat and possum. The ups and downs of their friendship mirror what we find in children — and you’ll love the humor and originality in these fun stories.
Farfallina and Marcel, by Holly Keller
A caterpillar named Farfellina and a gosling named Marcel become best friends – until the day that Farfellina flies away and spins “a blanket of glossy silk.” Meanwhile, Marcel grows into a handsome goose. When the two meet again, neither recognizes the other. But the two friends find that growing up and apart brings them closer together.
The Story of Fish and Snail, by Deborah Freedman
This is a wonderfully creative story about a fish and snail who live together in a book. The daring Fish loves to jump into other books and new adventures — but Snail wants to stay just where he is. Children will be happy to see that the ensuing fight ends happily. We especially loved the outstanding illustrations!
Poindexter Makes a Friend, by Mike Twohy
Poindexter is a quiet pig who prefers to spend all his time helping out at the library. When a shy turtle named Shelby requests a book about how to make friends, Poindexter finds it – they read it together and become friends in the process. A treasure of a book!
The Recess Queen, by Alexis O’Neill
Mean Jean owns the playground, and no one is brave enough to stand up to her — until a teeny kid named Katie Sue comes to school. She finds that making friends with Mean Jean is as simple as asking her to play.
Yo! Yes? by
This story has just a few words, but its message about making new friends is abundantly clear.
Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson
This is a friendship book well-suited to older kids (first grade and up), but younger kids will enjoy it too. The narrator puts mean Jeremy, his new neighbor, on his Enemy List. When asking his dad for advice on how to get rid of enemies, his dad promises to make Enemy Pie. But first he has to spend one day being kind to his enemy. Of course after the day spent together the boys are no longer enemies. Good story!
Fox Makes Friends, by Adam Relf
A little fox thinks that to make a friend he has to create one himself. A little rabbit and squirrel work alongside him to create a friend out of sticks, vegetables, and fruit. The friends are discouraged until they realize they’ve been making friends with each other all along.
Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, by Melanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel is so paranoid about germs and injury that he leads a solitary life. But when an exuberant dog wants to be his friend, Scaredy Squirrel learns to modify his definition of a good friend. You’ll love the humor in this book! A must-see.
Friends, by Rob Lewis
Oscar has moved to a new neighborhood and is having difficulty making friends. No wonder – he thinks the other rabbits are “too smelly, too noisy, too wild, too dreamy, too smart” or “too shy.” Oscar learns that to make friends, you sometimes have to join in with what they like doing.
My Friend Has Autism, by Amanda Doering Tourville
This is a simple story perfect for teaching kids about how their friends with autism are different than they are – and that it’s okay. Whether or not your child knows someone with autism, I highly recommend this book. Be sure to check out the rest of the books in the Friends with Disabilities series.
How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague
The “How Do Dinosaurs…” series is such a treasure! This book is perfect for teaching preschoolers that friends are kind, sharing, thoughtful, and generous.
Otis and the Tornado, by Loren Long
My kids and I love this story about the friendly tractor named Otis who braves a tornado to rescue the grumpy, unfriendly bull. A beautiful story about being kind to those who aren’t kind to us.
Friends, by Helme Heine
This story about three dissimilar friends – a rooster, mouse, and pig – tells of their daily adventures while weaving in lessons about friendship — like “Good friends decide things together,” and “Good friends are always fair.” Sweet story!
Toot & Puddle: You Are My Sunshine, by Holly Hobbie
If you’re never read a Toot & Puddle book, you’re missing a lovely series by the author/illustrator Holly Hobbie. In this story, Puddle shows love and patience to his friend, even when Toot is so discouraged that nothing cheers him up.
In Jesse’s Shoes, by Beverly Lewis
This book is narrated by a girl whose older brother was born with special needs. She’s embarrassed by him and sometimes wishes her parents would send him far away. But she learns to love her brother just as God does, and by the end of the book she appreciates him for who he is. A lovely story.
Henry and Mudge and the Careful Cousin, by Cynthia Rylant
I love the Henry & Mudge easy reader series! In this book, Henry’s cousin Annie comes to visit. But Annie isn’t any fun! She’s uncomfortable in his messy room, doesn’t welcome his dog’s sloppy kisses, and seems afraid of everything. Yet Henry is persistent at showing kindness to his cousin, and Annie comes out of her shell.
How to Be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them, by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
This detailed book presents real-life situations and how to handle them. How do you ask a new friend to play? How can you protect a friend if someone is bothering him? How can you help a friend who needs it? This book covers it all and works best as a cozy read-aloud on the couch because of the many small pictures and speech bubbles.
The Way of the Ninja, by David Bruins and Hilary Leung
I’m a little confused by this book – is the Ninja a little boy dressed up as a Ninja, a boy imagining he’s a Ninja, or a character that’s actually meant to be one? His friends are a cowboy and bear – about whom I have the same questions. Regardless, the story teaches that friendship means thinking of your friends before yourself.
I Can Share, by Karen Katz
This simple book is just right for teaching toddlers and young preschoolers how to get along.
Share and Take Turns, by Sherri J. Meiners
I love this book and the others in the Learning to Get Along series. They teach simple lessons about what it means to get along with others. In this book kids learn that sharing can take many forms — trading, taking turns, or doing something together. I highly recommend these for classroom teachers, but they’re also great for teaching kids at home.
The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand up for Others, by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy
This book teaches kids about how to work together to stand up against bullies and support each other. I’d save this book for kids older than preschool, as it has some name calling I’d rather my kids not hear. The book would be an excellent one to use in a classroom at the start of the year.
Just My Friend and Me, by Mercer Mayer
The Little Critter books have stayed popular since their creation in the late 1970’s. Kids will relate to the ups and downs of friendship in Little Critter’s day with his friend.
The Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell
Do you read the comics? Ever since I had a paper route when I was ten, I have to start my day with the comics page. The comic strip Mutts is so simple and poignant – just like this book by its creator. Mooch tries to find the perfect gift for his friend Earl, who already has everything. He discovers that having each other can be enough.
Big Al, by Andrew Clements
Big Al is a big, ugly, scary fish – with a good heart underneath. But how can he make the other fish see it? After Big Al rescues them from a fisherman’s net, the fish learn that it’s what’s beneath the surface that counts.
Poppleton and Friends, by Cynthia Rylant
I am just in love with this pudgy, good-natured pig and his simple life. If you’ve never read a Poppleton book, you are missing out! Every Poppleton book shares the theme of friendship, so you can’t go wrong no matter which one you choose. They’re also great easy readers at a mid-to-late first grade level.
Hugs from Pearl, by Paul Schmid
Pearl is a sweet little girl who loves to hug — and her friends love her so much they accept them (her teacher keeps lots of band-aids handy). But Pearl becomes discouraged when her friends all say “Ouch!” when receiving her prickly affection. After many attempts to solve the problem, she comes up with the perfect solution.
Moon Rabbit, by Natalie Russell
Two rabbits learn that good friends can enjoy spending time together, but it’s okay not to be together every moment.
My Friend Rabbit, by Eric Rohman
In this simple story, a mouse loves his well-meaning friend, even if trouble follows Rabbit wherever he goes.
That’s What Friends Are For, by Valeri Gorbachev
When Goat sees his friend Pig crying, he dreams up all kinds of reasons for it – and just how he’ll come to the rescue. It has a predictable ending, but it’s a cute story.
Square Cat, by Elizabeth Schoonmaker
This is such a goofy, fun story about a square cat who is always tipping over (and gets stuck, of course). Eula’s friends Patsy and Maude do whatever they can to cheer up their friend, including putting themselves in cardboard boxes so they can be square cats too.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee, byPhilip C. Stead
Amos McGee is a thoughtful zookeeper who, though busy, makes time for each of the animals at the zoo. He is so beloved that when he stays home sick, they come to him. The award-winning illustrations will steal your heart!
Boy + Bot, by Amy Dyckman
This is a fun, simple story about a boy and a robot who become friends. When the robot’s power switch is turned off, the boy tries to feed him, read to him, and tuck him into bed. When the boy falls asleep, the robot gives him oil, reads him an instruction manual, and brings him a spare battery. I love Dan Yaccarino’s illustrations.
The Selfish Crocodile, by Faustin Charles and Michael Terry
The selfish crocodile won’t let any of the other animals into the river, and they steer clear of him – until the day he moans and groans because of a mysterious pain. A little mouse is brave enough to climb up the crocodile’s belly and pull a troublesome tooth, and the two become good friends from that day forward.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox
Don’t miss this treasure of a book about a boy whose best friends are residents of a nursing home. When his dearest friend, Miss Nancy, starts losing her memory, Wilfrid does what he can to help her find it. A gem!
My Friend the Monster, by Eleanor Taylor
This is an adorable story about a little boy fox who makes friends with the timid monster under his bed.
A Porcupine Named Fluffy, by Helen Lester
A porcupine named Fluffy? Fluffy definitely isn’t. As he tries to change himself to fit his name, he runs into a rhinoceros named Hippo. After the two laugh at each others’ names, they become good friends.
The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
Some people would say that this book teaches how not to be a friend – the tree gives and gives, and the boy takes and takes. As a kid I loved this story because it begins with the boy’s childhood and ends when he’s an old man. Finally, when he can do nothing but rest on the stump, the boy appreciates his friend the giving tree.
Amos and Boris, by William Steig
This book actually makes me tear up. It is such a lovely story, and so beautifully written! Amos the mouse and Boris the whale become friends when Amos nearly drowns in the ocean. As the part at the seaside, the new friends know they might never meet again. But years later, when Boris gets stuck on the sandy shore, it’s Amos who comes to the rescue.
Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems
Leonardo is a terrible monster who can’t scare anyone. So he finds the perfect timid little boy to scare — Sam. When Sam bursts into tears, Leonardo congratulates himself – only to learn that Sam isn’t crying because he was scared, but because he has no friends. Leonardo decides that it’s better to be a wonderful friend than a terrible monster.
Lost and Found, by Oliver Jeffers
One day a boy finds a very sad penguin standing at his door. The boy decides that the penguin must be lost, so he sails with the penguin all the way to the South Pole. Along the way the two become good friends. After dropping off the penguin at the South Pole, the boy is discouraged to see that the penguin is not cheered up after all. Finally he realizes that the penguin was sad not because he was lost, but because he was lonely. The two are reunited at the end of this cozy story.
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