my best friend – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Now for a Perfect PIcture Book Friday selection that’s particularly poignant in these days of isolation mid COVID-19.

Ah, the playground. Remember that? Children playing together. It already feels like so long ago.

Text ©️Julie Fogliano Illustration ©️Jillian Tamaki

And the thrill of finding a new friend. Look at that body language!

Text ©️Julie Fogliano Illustration ©️Jillian Tamaki

i have a new friend

and her hair is black

and it shines

and it shines

and she always laughs at everything

The lack of punctuation and capitalization reflects the child’s point of view at an age where those things are not yet important. Likewise, the things she chooses to tell us about her friend ARE important to her, shiny hair and laughter. The repetition of the line “and it shines” is so kid-like, where they focus closely on a physical aspect they admire about their friend. But by also choosing to mention the new friend’s laughter, she’s expressing an emotional response to something deeper.

The pair play throughout the day, mimicking each other’s singing, making duck hands, sitting quietly under a tree, plucking leaves until the ribs resemble “skeleton hands,” and so on.

Until we get to a spread where the pair hug, and the narrator says:

she is my best friend

i think

i’ve never had a best friend

so i’m not sure

Ah, the sweetness of naming something for the first time! But the uncertainty is a fleeting thought, because we’re then thrown headlong into the myriad reasons why she thinks they’re best friends:

because they draw pictures of each other and surround them with hearts, because they “laugh into their knees” to keep from making noise while playing hide and seek with other children, and because her friend laughs “for the whole entire day,” something the narrator “really really” likes.

But the true test of a friendship? Navigating differences. When it turns out that her best friend LOVES strawberry ice cream, something the narrator HATES, and they remain friends, well “that is something good.”

The simple language perfectly pegs the voice of a four to five-year old; it’s child-like without being childish.

After a day of play, when it’s time to go their separate ways, the story ends with a perfect spread of the pair leaving the playground, the narrator looking longingly in the direction of her new friend being carried away in the arms of a parent:

I’m not sure about her name

but i will ask her tomorrow

and she will tell me then

because we are

best friends.

The beauty of this book and this perfect ending is in its depiction of how young children form fast, intense friendships based on what they do and how they interact, without the formality of even knowing each other’s name. Many a child will find themselves in this story. It’s interesting to note that the two children are the only people featured on all but two spreads, the one where they are playing hide and seek with other children and hiding together, and where they leave at the end with their parents. In the emotional world of this friendship, no one else matters.

It’s also interesting to note that the story invites the child reader to be seen as the best friend when the book is first opened, on the page leading to the title page shown above. The narrator, her head filling the page, stares straight at the reader before we turn the page and see that she’s really staring at her new friend.

I always find Julie Fogliano’s stories to be poetic. She conveys so much emotion with an economy of words, and the voice she has selected here comes to us straight from the playground. The artwork by Jillian Tamaki, with its peachy-pink and green two-color palette, suggests that there isn’t room for more than two in this “best friend” world. I particularly love how she also created artwork for the boards (under the book jacket), depicting the “best friend” seeking on the front and the narrator hiding on the back. Beautiful work!

Activities:

Play friendship games with your friends

Make friendship hearts, hand prints and more

Pair this book with Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, a story about a girl and boy who learn to play together at the playground.

Title: my best friend

Author: Julie Fogliano

Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020

Ages: Pre-K–first grade

Themes: friendship, differences

For more recommendations of perfect picture books, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.

12 thoughts on “my best friend – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

  1. mb says:

    Hi Jilanne, I always love these PPBF emails and many a book on our shelves have come from them. So thank you! I wondered if you’ve ever thought of categorizing them on your website in terms of subject. I was a school counselor a few years back and would always, ALWAYS hit this woman’s website to find picture books relating to the topic I needed (https://booksthathealkids.blogspot.com) because she categorized them in ways that I could quickly find a book on X topic.

    Just a thought, and a rhetorical email that doesn’t need a reply. I could see you marketing your site in that way though, so thought I’d share.

    Meagan

    >

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      i’m so glad you find these posts helpful for adding new books to your collection! Yay! Also, thanks for the suggestion about categorizing posts! Susanna Hill (the site I refer to at the end of each review) already “aggregates” and sponsors Perfect Picture Book Friday posts. If you pop over there, you’ll see that she categorizes books on her site as well as through a Pinterest board. I’ll give this some thought, though, and see if it’s possible to do it in an easy way here. Thank you! Cheers!

  2. Patricia Tilton says:

    So sweet and innocent! Is it my imagination or not, but I feel like I’m reading PB that are more “relaxed,” and don’t necessarily have protagonists with obstacles to overcome. I think of lyrical books like “I Am Love,” “I Am Human,” etc. Perhaps they are considered concept books. I reviewed a book a week ago where it was just plain beautiful and inspirational, with no obstacles. Just wondered what you think.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, the ones you’re mentioning fall into the realm of concept. This book has moments of gentle tension that are shown mostly in the illustrations, when things happen during their day of play that don’t always go perfectly. For example, they accidentally trample flowers, and when the narrator gets upset, her new friends helps her make them look almost as good as new. But the real impetus for the story is following their play throughout the day, something that I can see a preschooler doing. The child will identify with this pair, and want to read it again and again as the relive moments of friendship in their own lives, I think. I do think that some of the books you mention are in response to the meanness of public discourse that has evolved over the past few years. And trying to offer children an alternative to that meanness in concepts of kindness and connection. I’d also like to mention that “voice” can often drive a reader through a story, because it’s “someone” the reader wants to spend time with, whether there’s “tension” or not.

  3. ptnozell says:

    Is this Julie’s latest? I love her books, too; so poetic! The playgrounds near me, like in so many other areas, are closed now, but the park just reopened today. I’ll think of this book, and the best friends that find each other in playgrounds, as I stroll.

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