We were driving home from gym class when the words softly drifted from the back seat: “I’m not sure how to make friends.”
She has always been my shy one — the sweetest one, but shy. Her older sister walks into a room and takes command, vibrant and confident. But this one? She takes longer to acclimate.
How could I give her the encouragement — and the tools — she needed to overcome her reserve?
Have you ever encountered a situation like this? Sometimes, our little ones deal with big emotions—not just related to friendship either. They deal with emotions such as timidity, fear, feeling different or difficulty adjusting to major family changes (such as a new baby or the loss of a loved one). As a parent, I’ve found that one of the most effective tools to help me walk my children through these emotions is story-centred discussion.
Recently, I discovered several books from Candlewick Press that teach powerful lessons about friendship, fear, life and loss. I’ve listed my seven favourites below, along with some discussion starters so you can further explore these themes with your little ones:
Books About Friendship
By: Kate DiCamillo
When I spotted Good Rosie! in the Candlewick Press Fall 2018 Catalog, I knew this book would be perfect for my daughter. First of all, Kate DiCamillo is her all-time favourite author. (If you’ve never read her books, you must!) Secondly, the book is all about a little dog who desperately wants to make friends but isn’t quite sure how to go about it. Sound familiar?
It was my daughter in a nutshell.
When Rosie’s owner brings her to the dog park, she must learn how to talk to and play with the other dogs there. Through story, readers also learn how to meet new people and build friendships.
Discussion Starters: What is friendship? How did Rosie feel when she went to the dog park for the first time? How do you feel when you go somewhere for the first time? Using Rosie as an example, what are some ways you can make new friends?
Borka: The Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers
By: John Burningham
Sometimes, being “different” is an obstacle to making friends. Borka is a really sweet book about a goose who is teased because she doesn’t have any feathers. Her mother knits her a gray sweater, but she still can’t seem to fit in with the other geese. Furthermore, since she can’t fly, she is left behind when the rest of the geese leave for the winter. One day, however, she finds a place where she belongs—a place where she is accepted.
This book sparked a wonderful chat about how to treat those who seem “different”. And it offers hope for those who don’t feel like they fit in.
Discussion Starters: Why don’t the other geese want to play with Borka? How do you think that makes her feel? How do you think she feels in her new home at the end? How should we treat those who are different from us?
Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster
By: James Howe
“Suddenly, Houndsley felt invisible.”
What do you do when your best friend makes a new friend and you feel left out? Especially when that new friend seems to be better than you at absolutely everything? Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster explores some of the emotions children face when a new friend enters the picture.
This book, with its beautiful illustrations, is a really wonderful way to open up discussion with your child about the nuances of friendship. When a friendship issue came up at our homeschool group, my children and I re-read this book and brainstormed ways to make sure that no one felt left out.
Discussion Starters: Why did Houndsley feel invisible? Was Catina trying to leave him out on purpose? Did Houndsley explain to Catina how he felt? What might have happened if he had talked to her about it? What should you do if you feel left out? How can you make sure that others are included in your friendships?
Making Good Choices
A Bike Like Sergio’s
By: Maribeth Boelts
The right thing isn’t always the easy thing. Ruben knows that his family can’t afford to buy him a bike like his friend Sergio’s for his birthday. When Ruben finds $100 on the ground, he is suddenly able to buy the bike he’s always dreamed of. But is it okay to take money that isn’t his?
A Bike Like Sergio’s covers several themes: dealing with envy, learning to be content with what you have, living within your means, honesty and responsibility. This book initiated a beautiful conversation about integrity in our home—one that was much more effective than all of my lectures on honesty combined. There is something so powerful about truth taught through story.
Discussion Starters: How does Ruben feel when he sees Sergio’s bike? Have you ever felt that way about something that someone else owns? Why was Ruben’s mom crossing items off her grocery list? Could she afford to buy Ruben a bike for his birthday? When Ruben first found the $100 bill, what should he have done with it? If it had been a $1 bill, would it have been okay to keep it? Have you ever struggled to be honest? What did Ruben do in the end with the money? What would you have done if you were Ruben?
Don’t Like Snakes
By: Nicola Davies
Don’t Like Snakes tells the story of a little girl who is scared of snakes. Absolutely terrified. But her family loves them. In an effort to help her overcome her fear, they begin to teach her all sorts of cool facts about snakes.
Do you know what?
If you have a child who is afraid of snakes (or anything else), I
Don’t Like Snakes is a great way to introduce discussion about the differences between healthy fear and unhealthy fear—and how knowledge can help us overcome our fears.
Discussion Starters: Why is the little girl in the story afraid of snakes? What does her family do to help her overcome her fear? Is there anything you’re afraid of? Learn one new fact about the thing that you’re afraid of. Can you think of anything else you can do to help yourself be a little less afraid?
Navigating Birth and Death
The New Small Person
By: Lauren Child
Elmore Green is used to having things his way. He has his own space with his own things, and he is the centre of his parents’ world. But one day, his life is turned upside-down.
Adjusting to a new sibling can be difficult, especially when you’re an only child. In The New Small Person, Lauren Child does an incredible job of conveying the emotions a child might feel when a new sibling is born. In addition to one-on-one time with Mommy, this book is a fantastic way to ease the transition and to open up discussion about the beautiful benefits of a baby brother or sister.
Discussion Starters: What was Elmore Green’s life like before his brother came along? How did he feel about his baby brother at first? What made Elmore change his mind? Do you think having a new baby brother was a good thing or a bad thing?
By: Helen Frost
It’s applesauce weather, and Peter and Faith aren’t sure if Uncle Arthur is going to come this time—not without Aunt Lucy. When he does come, things just aren’t the same. And whatever did happen to his missing finger?
Written in poetic form, this sweet chapter book explores how to cope with the loss of a loved one. Geared towards slightly older children (8-12 years old), discussion topics include: how positive memories bring comfort and how, even in grief, the closing of one chapter can signal the beginning of another.
(This book is also included on my list of 100+ Autumn-Themed Storybooks to Read to Your Child)
Discussion Starters: Why don’t Peter and the children’s mother think Uncle Arthur will come? Why does Uncle Arthur have trouble telling stories this year? What helps Uncle Arthur recover his ability to tell stories again? Why are happy memories helpful? What happy memories do you have?
Where to buy these books (and a special coupon code)
I know you’re probably wondering where to get a hold of these amazing books. You can find these books (and so many more goodies!) in the Candlewick Press Fall 2018 Catalog.
And some good news?
Order directly from Candlewick.com and enter the discount code CANDLEWICK at checkout to receive a 25% discount!
Win a Free Book from Candlewick Press!
For my American readers, I have even more good news! Candlewick Press is giving away 14 copies of Walk this Wild World by Kate Baker. Written for Kindergarten to Grade 3 and packed with amazing facts, Walk this Wild World is a beautiful lift-the-flap book about animals from around the world and the habitats in which they live.
>>>CLICK HERE TO ENTER<<<
*Contest is open to American residents age 18 and over.