There is no better way to discuss problems with small children than via a picture book. Lots of children encounter conflict at some point or another in their friendships. The difficulty with finding a book to help is that most guides are not specific enough. All of these books are about conflict and resolution, but the characters fall out for different reasons – Rainbow Fish thinks too much of himself, George won’t share, Hummingbird doesn’t respect boundaries and Something Else wants a Friend who is just like himself. Although these books are about the same theme, their messages are slightly different.
Here are eight picture books about friendship -getting along, falling out and sharing. Check the key messages to understand what the book is about. Three by the Sea – Mini Grey
Cat, Dog and Mouse live by the sea. They get along just fine until a stranger arrives and offers them a free gift. He whispers things in their ears until Cat, Dog and Mouse no-longer trust each-other. Can they resolve their quarrels or is this the end of their life together?
Key message – Don’t let anyone or anything come between an established friendship.
Sharing A Shell – Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks
Crab finds a new shell to live in but he doesn’t want to share it with anyone. Then a purple blob works its way in, then a brush. The trio realises they can help each other and it is the start of a new friendship. Life in the rockpool proves tough and crab decides he needs new housemates. What will it take for the three to make friends?
Key message – We bring different things to a team
Hector And Hummingbird – Nicholas John Frith
A hummingbird makes friends with a bear called Hector who loves the peace and quiet. When Hummingbird gets too noisy, Hector stomps off to be alone, but he finds he misses his friend. A story of difference, compromise and the need to give each other space.
Key message – Learn and be comfortable with each other’s boundaries.
The Rainbow Fish – Marcus Pfister
Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in all the seas. He doesn’t have time to play with the ordinary, non-sparkly fish. When he refuses to share his sparkling scales the other fish stop trying to play. Suddenly Rainbow Fish is all alone. Could making friends be more important than being special?
Key message – It is better to be ordinary and have friends than special and alone.
Grumpy Frog – Ed Vere
Frog’s not grumpy. Not at all. Lots of things make Frog annoyed and he likes to win but he isn’t grumpy. The genius of this book is how we see Frog’s monologue pushing everyone else out of the story.
Key message – When we are grumpy we forget to listen to other people’s perspectives.
Hortense And Shadow – Natalia and Lauren O’Hara
Hortense hates her shadow. It jumps out in unexpected places and frightens her. When Hortense shuts her shadow out of her life she thinks she is safe – but she reckons without a team of bandits. Who will save Hortense?
Key message – We should overlook minor annoyances because friends are there to help in the darkest of times.
This Is Our House – Michael Rosen and Bob Graham
George’s cardboard house is for himself. It isn’t for people with red hair, girls, small people, twins, people with glasses or people who like tunnels. One by one, all of George’s friends are refused entry. Then they build a house of their own. George finds himself on the receiving end. George must rethink his attitude before his friends will let him in.
Key message – If we make other people unwelcome nobody will want to play with us. This could also open some discussion about excluding people by traits – do we want a world in which certain groups feel unwelcome?
Something Else – Kathryn Cave
Something Else is different to everyone else. His clothes are different, his food is different and he even plays different games to everyone else. Something Else retreats home. The same night, there is a knock at the door. Something is just like Something Else, but Something Else isn’t certain he wants to be friends with someone who is not like himself.
Key message – we don’t have to be the same to get along. This would be useful if children are having difficulty with inclusivity.