Ah friendship! As much as it seems like it should be all cupcakes and rainbows (to quote a favorite movie), kids quickly realize that friendships can also bring their own challenges. In the end, of course, untangling them is well worth the time and effort, but figuring out how to navigate friendship problems can be difficult and emotionally exhausting. Here is a great collection of books that show kids how to handle friendship troubles with sensitivity, confidence, and (of course) a healthy dose of humor.
Books About Friendship Problems Kids Can Totally Relate to
Ever have the friend that just doesn’t know how to respect boundaries? (Or perhaps you have sometimes been that friend?) Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably) is all about our favorite alligator Snappsy (read my full review of his first book, Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)) and the chicken (the narrator from the first book) who just won’t leave him alone! The chicken has all sorts of fun ideas for what he and and his BFF Snappsy can do together – singing karaoke, having a sleepover – but it turns out that not only is Snappsy not interested, he doesn’t even know the chicken’s name! (Which makes you wonder, which one of them is the bad friend?) Snappsy finally gets the chicken (whose name is Bert, by the way) to leave him alone – only to find out that he really misses him! Kids will love the silliness of this story about negotiating boundaries.
Philomena’s New Glasses tackles what happens when friends are too close. Philomena and her sisters do everything together, but sometimes it’s too much. When Philomena gets glasses, so do Audrey and Nora Jane – even though they don’t need them! When Philomena gets a new handbag, so do Audrey and Nora Jane – even though Nora Jane really didn’t want one, since her arms were too short. And so it goes, until finally Nora Jane decides enough is enough. Cute book about one of the most common friendship problems, as the sisters learn that being best friends doesn’t mean you have to do everything exactly alike. My kids love the super cute photos of the guinea pigs with their glasses and outfits!
Susannah is having the worst day ever. She hasn’t finished her homework, and her parents are always too busy to notice her. Then her best friend invites her to a sleepover, but Susannah hates her creepy house – imagine being there all night! All Susannah wants to do is to stuff everything further and further into her backpack to deal with later (or never) but eventually she discovers that her problems don’t really go away. They just end up exploded all over her room when her backpack can’t take anything else being shoved in it. (What a great metaphor for what happens when you ignore your problems!) Oh Susannah: It’s in the Bag is a great book for kids that feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to ask for help.
Any parent that doesn’t think navigating those early friendships is difficult should read Absolutely Alfie and the First Week Friends. This is actually the second book in a wonderful new series from the creators of the EllRay Jakes series (see EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken). Alfie, EllRay’s little sister, is growing up and encountering challenges of her own as she begins second grade. Alfie has it all planned out – she is best friends with Lulu and became close with Hanni over the summer, so obviously the three of them should become best buddies! The only problem is that Lulu and Hanni aren’t friends yet, but that should be easy enough to fix, right??
I love that this book takes children’s friendship problems seriously while having faith in the characters to figure things out, with a little help from caring adults. I also love the portrait of this happy, loving African-American family. While race is not center stage in the book, I love the little details that make the story ring true – like that Alfie would be aware right away how many other black kids were in her class, or that she would wonder why her white friend would try to tell her how to do hair, when her hair was so different?
And don’t miss the first book in the series, Absolutely Alfie and the Furry, Purry Secret, where we first meet Alfie and her family – including its newest member, the kitten that only Alfie knows about! I love the character of Alfie. She is so funny! I laughed out loud at her conversations with herself, as she tries to puzzle out her friendship problems (or justify why she’s doing something she knows she shouldn’t, like bringing home a kitten!) Great beginning chapter book series.