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Children's Corner
Bob Hoover
Children's Corner
Fictional friendships endure good and bad times

Tuesday, August 15, 2000

By Karen MacPherson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Friendship is a favorite theme in children's books. Just look at the classic volumes celebrating the friendships of Frog and Toad, Betsy and Tacy (and Tib), or Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin.

This season, publishers are offering a plethora of picture books about friendship. Here's a look at the best of them, including several that spotlight the challenges of friendship:

Dorothy and Mikey are best friends, but that doesn't mean they always get along.

At times like that, the two friends need some time away from each other, to cool off and to realize that friendship can sometimes be a pretty bumpy thing. In the end, however, Dorothy and Mikey come back together because they realize their friendship is more important than anything else.

In "Dorothy & Mikey" (Putnam, $12.99), author/illustrator Keiko Kasza has created a charming and insightful look at the ups and downs of friendship through the tale of these two chubby hippos. Interspersed with the text, Kasza's illustrations of Dorothy and Mikey are affectionate and expressive.

The format of "Dorothy & Mikey" -- three short chapters -- makes it a good choice for preschoolers ready for picture books with more text. But young school-agers also will particularly enjoy this story. (Ages 4-7)

Famed in the publishing world for her expertise as a children's book editor, Charlotte Zolotow also is beloved by young readers for the more than 70 books she has written.

Children love Zolotow's books because they address issues important in a down-to-earth way. In "The Hating Book," Zolotow described the vicissitudes of good friends. In "Big Sister and Little Sister," she wrote about how hard it can be to have a bossy older sibling. And, in "William's Doll," Zolotow broke new ground by writing about a boy's longing for a doll.

Now Zolotow once again tackles the subject of friendship in her newest book, "My Friend John" (Doubleday, $14.95).

With an unerring instinct for how kids feel, Zolotow uses a first-person narrative to dissect the close bond between two boys. In the process, she gives a universal portrait of friendship.

Zolotow's text is spare, but it's permeated with emotion and will resonate with young readers. She has her young narrator open the book by stating, "I know everything about John, and he knows everything about me." (Ages 4-7)

Jef Kaminsky has written a beguiling story about friendship in "Poppy & Ella" (Hyperion, $14.99).

Subtitled "Three Stories About Two Friends," Kaminsky's book focuses on the good times -- and the bad -- between these rather different birds. Through these simple stories, Kaminsky shows how Poppy and Ella know they can count on their friendship when they really need it.

Kaminsky's text is punchy and fast-moving, while his illustrations convey -- in a charming, colorful way -- the depth of the friendship between Poppy and Ella. (Ages 3-6)

Elaine Scott invites young readers to examine the idea of friendship in her thought-provoking new book, "Friends!" (Atheneum, $16).

Aided by the animated photographs of veteran photographer Margaret Miller, Scott writes about the work and the play of friendship. Scott also focuses on some typical problems that friends experience.

For each situation, Scott poses a question for readers, asking them to think what they would do. As she writes to parents at the book's end: "We hope this book will lead to lively discussions that help young readers learn how to become the kind of friends who care, comfort and, when necessary, confront." (Ages 5-9, although somewhat younger and older children could enjoy this book as well.)

With a sprightly text and irresistible watercolor illustrations, author/artist Keiko Narahashi demonstrates several dozen examples of the fun of friendship in "Two Girls Can!" (McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, $16). This is a perfect read-aloud book for preschoolers, who will delight in seeing all the activities that two friends can do together, from digging a hole to climbing a tree to being quiet. (Ages 3-6)

Turtle likes breakfast, while Spottie prefers lunch. So they eat brunch together. In "I Like You the Way You Are" (Clarion, $15), veteran author Eve Bunting shows how two friends use compromise to bridge their differences. But Bunting's story isn't didactic. Written in five short chapters, "I Like You the Way You Are" is entertaining and engrossing. (Ages 5-9)

amazon.comBuy these books at amazon.com

Dorothy & Mikey

My Friend John

Poppy & Ella


Two Girls Can

I Like You the Way You Are

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