5 Picture Books about Unlikely Friendships

Friends make you feel happier and lower your stress. They help you feel as though you belong and have a purpose. They improve your sense of confidence and self-worth.

Friendship is obviously good for us, but friends don’t have to look like us, talk like us, or even belong to the same species as us to make a difference in our lives. Showing your child that a friend can be found in the unlikeliest of places is a wonderful life lesson.

One way to exemplify this message is through engaging picture books. Check out these titles that show just how meaningful bonds can be between unlikely pairs:

Amos & Boris

By William Steig

Amos is a mouse who loves living by the ocean. He loves the ocean so much that he builds a boat by day and studies navigation at night. When the boat is ready, he loads up with everything he might possibly need.

He sets sail, and Amos is a natural. Until one day, that is, when he rolls off the boat and into the water. The boat floats away and Amos is adrift at sea. All hope is lost. As Amos tries to stay afloat in a downpour, a whale appears. His name is Boris, and he would be happy to take Amos home.

The trip takes a week, giving the pair time to become the closest of friends. But once the mouse reaches home, there's nothing left to do but say goodbye. And Amos promising Boris to repay him for his kindness.

Years later, a hurricane hits, tossing Boris to the shore. When Amos visits the beach to inspect the damages, he sees the whale lying helplessly on the sand. Thinking quickly, Amos runs off and returns with two kindly elephants to help get Boris safely back into the water.

The friends said goodbye once more. Although they knew they would probably never meet again, they also knew they would be friends forever.

This moving story displays the value of a true friend, and shows children that you are never too little to make a difference in someone’s life.

Boy + Bot

By Ame Dyckman

A young boy and a robot become fast friends, but when Bot falls down a hill and bumps his off switch, the boy thinks he must be sick. He tries every remedy he can think of, from applesauce to storybooks, to no avail. He tucks Bot in and goes to sleep beside him.

Bot’s switched is turned back on when the boy’s parents check on him, but when he sees the boy asleep, he thinks he must be ill and tries his own remedies. When the boy wakes up learns that the robot had taken care of him as well, the pair becomes inseparable.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

By Mo Willems

Leonardo is a terrible monster....terrible because he just can't scare anybody, no matter how hard he tries.

So Leonardo decides to find the most scared-cat child out there and "scare the tuna salad out of him". He sneaks up on a little boy named Sam and gives his best scare. Sam cries...HARD! But it really has nothing at all to do with being scared. It turns out, Sam was just having a super tough day.

Hearing the boy’s story makes Leonardo think: Maybe instead of being a terrible monster, he can just be a really good friend. 

The fun pictures, Sam’s sad but silly outburst, and Leonardo’s response will show kids the value of compassion, even in unlikely situations.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee 

By Philip C. Stead

Every day, Amos McGee catches the bus to his job as zookeeper for the City Zoo. He does more than feed and clean up the animals in his care. Amos is truly a friend to the creatures, making time for visits to play chess, run races, or sit quietly with various animals.

One day though, Amos finds himself too ill to go to work. His animal friends sorely miss his presence. Since he is not well enough to get to them, the animals take it upon themselves to travel to Amos’s home and spend time with him there.

He plays chess with the elephant, enjoys a game of hide-and-seek with the tortoise, the penguin sits quietly with him, the rhinoceros shares a handkerchief with him, and the owl reads a story aloud before turning out the light.

This charming and timeless story shows that no matter how far-fetched a friendship may seem, friends are there when you need them, even if means going to great lengths to get there.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

By Mem Fox

A small boy named Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next door to a retirement home. Wilfrid knows all of the residents there and spends time with each of them.

Miss Nancy is his favorite person of all. 96-year-old Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper has four names, just as Wilfrid did. But Wilfrid heard his parents say that poor Miss Nancy has lost her memory.

Wilfrid wasn’t sure what that meant, so he asked the other residents of the home what a memory is. Each one shares his or her thoughts, and Wilfrid runs off to collect new memories for Miss Nancy.

When he gives her the objects, Miss Nancy is puzzled. However, as she goes over the entire collection of eggs, seashells, and a even puppet, Miss Nancy begins to recall memories of her own.

Wilfrid’s relationships with his elderly neighbors can help teach children that everyone is valuable, no matter how young or old they might be.

Perhaps the most prevalent theme in these picture books is that caring about what others need makes you a good friend, no matter how dissimilar the two of you might be.

What are some of your favorite books about unlikely friendships to read with the kids? Share with us!

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Tags : books   picture books   friendship   

Nikki M
I have Boy + Bot, A Sick Day for Amos McGee (LOVE the illustrations!) and Amos and Boris.. Such great stories!