This world is so full of sharp edges, sorrows like anvils sitting on our chests, worries, feelings of inadequacy. That’s true for adults, and it’s true for children as well.
One of the sweetest gifts on the planet is the gift of friendship, camaraderie, a sympathetic ear, to soften the rough spots, comfort us, ease our burdens, give us a place of belonging.
Today’s books speak to the beauties of friendship. Warm and honest, they’re a sweet choice for sharing while sitting scooched up together on the sofa.
The Day You Begin, written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
published in 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Young Readers
Jacqueline Woodson nails the emotions of feeling different, being the odd one out, that panicky sense of distance between you and everyone else in the room, the terrible sting of laughter when you have no part in it, the lonely sensation of seeing your story as incomprehensible or, let’s face it, shabby, compared to everyone else’s.
A variety of children are feeling that way at the outset of her book — newcomers, kids from a different economic bracket — but a dash of courage and some serendipitous friendships span those gaps, fling wide the doors, unfurl the sun in this gorgeous ode to the power of human stories and connection.
López garbs the whole book in warm, vibrant, optimistic color, carrying us from the moments of insecurity to the joys of togetherness with one, non-stop flood of beauty.
A brave, hope-filled gem for ages 4 and up.
Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse, written by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken
published in 2018 by Dial Books for Young Readers
The exquisite colors of Corinna Luyken’s artwork; her masterful combination of sturdy, grounding, plainspoken line with the sweep and upward lift of wild flowers and feathery grasses in burnished, autumnal glory; the personality she infuses in every posture and expression — all of that captivating artistry is the first thing that’ll grab you when you encounter this astonishing book.
Then, meander your way through a thoroughly-human, honest story of one Adrian Simcox, a boy whose home life is marked by poverty but whose imagination is rich with wonder.
In a plot reminiscent of Eleanor Estes’s classic The Hundred Dresses, Adrian regales his classmates with stories of his beautiful horse, while our narrator, Chloe, stands in judgment of him, smug and annoyed at what she sees as a scandalous lie.
Chloe’s mother’s wise response allows Chloe to see the truth through a lens of kindness, opens her eyes to a new way of seeing a different kind of wealth and beauty. Meanwhile, sharp-eyed readers will also have their eyes opened more literally as they observe Adrian’s reality in some brilliant negative-space elements of Luyken’s illustrations. Hint: Look for that horse in unsuspecting places!
Tender-hearted, gorgeous, and enriching for a wide age range, 5 and up.