Read to Your Kids, Part IV, Tales of Friendship

Hum “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” as we delve into some of my family’s favorite stories of friendship.

Flood: Mississippi, 1927 (Survivors) by Kathleen Duey and Karen A. Bale


Garrett is white and Molly is black, but despite the consternation of their families and the scoffing of Garrett’s white peers, Garrett and Molly are best friends. When their town is flooded (based on the Mississippi River Flood of 1927) and they wind up on a tumultuous raft ride, their friendship further strengthens. With the relentless rain and water raging around them, how will they ever get home? My elementary-aged kids found this read-aloud 100% riveting.

Follow My Leader by James B. Garfield 


Jimmy and his buddies are hanging out like usual, but when Mike Adams accidentally throws a firecracker at Jimmy’s face, life changes for all the boys. When Jimmy recovers from surgery, the serious truth is discovered: he is permanently blind. How can Jimmy play with his buddies? Worse, how can he possibly forgive Mike Adams for doing this to him? At guide-dog school, Jimmy’s roommate shares an important nugget of wisdom with him: Jimmy needs to consider how Mike Adams feels, living the rest of the his life knowing that he blinded someone. Jimmy and his buddies learn incredible life lessons, and I recommend this book for elementary and even middle-grade readers.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo


Opal seems to always feel out-of-place, especially in her new home in Florida. One day in the grocery store, she claims to be the owner of a stray (and mangy and filthy) dog and announces that his name is Winn-Dixie. As Opal goes about her summer with her new dog, she learns that everyone endures hardship, even snobby Amanda. And when Winn-Dixie darts through Gloria Dump’s yard, the old woman everyone thinks is a witch, Opal even finds an unlikely friend in her. This story has a noteworthy character arc, and the tale is very appealing to elementary-aged kids. The part that I found sad is that Opal’s mother left when she was very young, and throughout the story Opal hopes her mom will return. In the end (which is part of Opal’s character arc), she decides to thrive with her father, dog and friends rather than wait for her mother’s unlikely return to enjoy life.

Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet by Jane O’Connor 


There was a time when my daughter devoured several Fancy Nancy books each day (the original Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser series), but she mostly reads chapter books these days. Maybe Daughter #2 will go through the phase as well….after nearly memorizing most of the books, I love the friendship displayed in FN and the Mermaid Ballet. Nancy is devastated (that is a fancy word for very sad) when Bree is chosen to be a mermaid and Nancy is chosen to be a tree in their upcoming ballet. She liked it better when neither of them was a mermaid (before Savannah’s injury restricted her to becoming an oyster). Nancy wants to be happy for Bree, but she doesn’t feel happy for her. Another story with a great character arc, this is a good pick for preschool-aged/elementary-aged kids. As always, Glasser’s illustrations are exemplary.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare


Matt’s father instructs him to take care of their new cabin in Maine while he goes to fetch the rest of the family in 1768. 12-year-old Matt is daunted by the responsibility but also eager for the opportunity to prove his capability. As he waits (far longer than planned) for his father and family to arrive, Matt heavily depends on a Native American boy and his grandpa. Attean and Matt have a ‘walking-on-eggshells friendship’, but little by little, they come to an almost brotherly understanding of each other. When it looks unlikely that Matt’s family will ever return, Attean and his grandpa urge him to join the tribe as they move on for new hunting grounds. What will Matt do? Our 6-year-old son LOVED this story, while our 8-year-old daughter preferred Gooney Bird, but she did listen to the whole story and admitted that it was good.

Pie by Sarah Weeks


This is not the first post in which I have recommended Pie, but it is very fitting to include in this post for stories of friendship. Alice is heartbroken when her beloved Aunt Polly dies. When Polly’s cat Lardo gets catnapped, Alice finds herself on an adventure with Charlie Erdling, whom she believes must not use a fingernail brush (but at least his greasy fingers can fix her bicycle chain every time it falls off). Before they know it, Alice and Charlie are best friends. Again, my elementary-aged kids do not tire of this story. I love reading it aloud, but the epilogue makes me cry every time (in a bittersweet way, like the end of Charlotte’s Web) so my husband reads the end.

There you have them. Keep humming “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and comment below with your favorite tales of friendship.



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