Eight beautiful picture books about making new friends

Published on: 10 November 2020

It can be daunting for little ones starting primary school to know how to make new friends for the first time - here's our pick of the top eight books about friendship!

Illustration by Rebecca CobbIllustration by Rebecca Cobb

Do you remember your first day at school? So many new names and faces - it can be lot to take in!

Luckily, one of the absolute best things about starting school is making new friends - some of whom you might stay close with your whole life. Of course, making new friends and socialising for the first time can be a bit of a scary thought for shyer children, but books are a great way to help build their social skills.

By introducing children to a range of characters and relationships, stories are a fabulous way to help them settle in. We've picked out eight of our absolute favourite books about friendship and meeting new people to help them on their way.

Elmer's Friends by David McKee

We love Elmer the patchwork elephant! For over 30 years, he's been a symbol of being different and confident in your own skin. In this lovely, super-colourful board book, Elmer introduces us to each of his friends and what it is he loves about them - Zebra is his stripiest friend, Snake is his longest, Leopard the spottiest. Each of his friends is different and special in their own way, and this is a wonderful book to get children thinking about what they like about themselves and their friends.

Duck and Penguin Are Not Friends by Julia Woolf

Illustration from Duck and Penguin are NOT Friends by Julia WoolfIllustration by Julia Woolf

Maud and Betty are best friends who love doing everything together... but their toys, Duck and Penguin, are NOT. They don't want to play together. They certainly don't want to cook together. And yet they're stuck with each other.

This is an absolute must-read for anyone, young or old, who's ever had to try and get along with somebody they don't think they like. Duck and Penguin's disgruntled expressions are hilarious, and there's a brilliant message for children that even though you might think somebody is your sworn enemy, usually you have quite a lot more in common with them than you thought - and might even end up getting along with them. Ideal to have on hand for catastrophic friendship fall-outs.

A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey and Mika Song

Henry's excited at the thought of making new friends in his class, but it's not easy; some of the things his classmates do, like digging up worms or waving their hands in his face, is just plain confusing. When Henry tries to be kind and helpful, people get annoyed with him. How will he make new friends in such a tricky situation?

This gentle picture book about a boy struggling to understand the behaviour of his classmates is written by an author who well understands the challenges and experiences of many children on the autistic spectrum; although autism is not referred to directly in the story, and Henry's difficulty in making friends is one that a great many of us can empathise with. A lovely message of reassurance and friendship at the end make this a perfect book for children anxious about fitting in.

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

This vibrant, charming story about a little lost penguin and the boy who tries to help him find his way home won a gold medal in the Nestle Children's Book Prize and a Blue Peter Book Award. It's also been turned into an adorable animation!

The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter and Maisie Paradise Shearring

Illustration from The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Maisie Paradise ShearringIllustration by Maisie Paradise Shearring

How do you go about making friends when nobody seems to want to say 'I love you'? Dimitri is new at nursery and determined to tell everyone (and everything) that he loves them, but it's frustrating when you're the only one saying it. Dimitri's mum explains that people show their love for each other in different ways - like Berthe the dinner lady's smile, or the man in the park who gives the strays cats tuna. Dimitri feels better, and begins to understand that there are as many different ways of saying 'I love you' as there are people in the world.

This beautiful story, filled with diversity, kindness, and emotional intelligence, recently won the Little Rebels Award 2020. 

My Friend Fred by Frances Watts and A. Yi

Fred might howl at the moon, chew slippers and eat dog food, but we're still best friends. This bright and funny picture book celebrates the differences that make us who we are - whether we like dog food or not - and that make our friendships so strong.

Rosie Is My Best Friend by Ali Pye

Rosie gets to spend every day with her best friend - it's heaven! They get to play from first thing in the morning til bedtime, explore the park together, and create fantastic imaginary games - they even get to go to outer space!

This is a gorgeously upbeat and colourful book about friendship for young children, with a fabulous twist towards the end.

Hello Friend by Rebecca Cobb

Illustration from Hello Friend by Rebecca CobbIllustration by Rebecca Cobb

The little girl in this story is determined to befriend a boy in her class. They share their lunch, play with toys, and run around the playground together. But he seems very shy... does he like being her friend as much as she likes being his?

This adorably expressive picture book is perfect for children just starting school who might be slightly anxious about making friends, reassuring them that everybody in their new class will be nervous too and that friendships are all about understanding each other.

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