Book Bites: Fathoming Friendship

The seas of friendship are challenging to navigate regardless of age or creed. It’s natural for most youngsters to slip effortlessly through the minefields of companionship whilst others struggle with its ambiguities and complex set of social rules. This smattering of picture books highlights the many beautiful highs and lows of friendship.

Baz & Benz

With a handful of succinct words, Heidi McKinnon creates a lively dialogue between best owlet mates, Baz and Benz. Baz is diminutive yet big on persistence; adopting the tedious interrogative tone a younger sibling might employ when trying to alleviate anxiety. His repetitive quizzing about the strength and longevity of his friendship with Benz eventually wears thin on poor old Benz who becomes increasingly annoyed. Can true friendship endure such taunting or is this the end of Baz and Benz? Simple, funny illustrations accentuate these characters and the endearing storyline. Also available as a board book.

Title:  Baz & Benz
Author / Illustrator:  Heidi McKinnon
Publisher:  Allen & Unwin, $24.99
Publication Date:  March 2019
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781760523688
For ages:  3+                                                                                                                       

Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Allen & Unwin, Boomerang Books

Florence & Fox

The premise of this newish picture book is straightforward and relatable in anyone’s sandbox; Fox who tends to emulate his best friend, Florence needs to borrow her hammer. She abjectly refuses stating it’s not Sharing Day. This confounds Fox who happily lends Florence whatever it is she needs from him even when it is not Sharing Day. He can’t but help admire his friend’s ingenuity and skill in the sandpit but when he tries to join in with her gear, he is snubbed from sharing once again. Despondent, he leaves Florence whose monopoly on possessions and rules eventually softens allowing the pair to rebuild their friendship and something extra special to boot.

Pignataro’s signature soft water coloured, pencil and collage illustrations blend beautifully with Zanni Louise’s dialogue-orientated prose to create a touching tale that celebrates the tenuous thrills and speed humps of friendship, playtime and creativity; the perfect vehicle for steering pre-schoolers into discussions about sharing.

Title:  Florence & Fox
Author:  Zanni Louise
Illustrator:  Anna Pignataro
Publisher:  Walker Books Australia, $25.99
Publication Date:  May 2021
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781760651350
For ages:  3+                                                                                                                                

Type: Picture Book        

Buy the Book: Walker Books Australia, Boomerang Books

Dandy & Dazza

This creation by picture book stars, Mike Dumbleton and Brett Curzon is a satisfying exploration of opposites and contrary opinions, illustrating in eye-filling glorious colour how, if left to collide, they can create the most pawesome partnerships. Yes, Dandy and Dazza are dogs, one a best in show kind of hound, aka a snob of refined luxuries, the other a rough and tumble sort of mongrel, who sports his own halo of blowflies. Hilarious imagery and repeated phraseology will have tiny tots hooting with laughter and hurrahing with encouragement as Dazza and Dandy finally hook up, bunking conventions and proving that not only can opposites attract but also result in beautiful beneficial relationships. Frolicsome fun.

Title:  Dandy & Dazza
Author:  Mike Dumbleton
Illustrator:  Brett Curzon
Publisher:  New Frontier Publishing, $24.99
Publication Date:  April 2021
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781921928826
For ages:  3+                                                                                                                           

Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: New Frontier Publishing, Boomerang Books

Norton and the Bear

Author illustrator, Gabriel Evans wastes no time getting to the point of this tale about conformity and belonging. We all harbour some need to fit in as blending in with the crowd often aligns with acceptance and safety. Yet when one yields to the urge to rise above uniformity, how hard should he fight to retain uniqueness? Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery or just an annoyance? Norton is about to find out after he experiences a moment of exceptional uniqueness. It feels beyond good to stand out from the crowd however it is fleeting for Bear immediately falls upon Norton, enraptured by his dress sense and copies him, repeatedly, until every effort made by Norton to remain distinctive and special is foiled by the venerating Bear. Norton loses it admonishing Bear and his unimaginative sense of style.

This joyful story tickles the funny bones. The characters are incongruously cute and quirky yet it’s their personalities that endear and attract. Bear is gregarious and idolising, Norton focused and observant. Together their hilarious exploration of self-identity carries them towards friendship, a friendship that allows them to share their differences and mutual admiration. Norton and the Bear is a jolly, sensitive and adept commentary on the nuances of individuality and adapting.

Title:  Norton and the Bear
Author / Illustrator: Gabriel Evans
Publisher:  Berbay Publishing, $25.99
Publication Date:  October 2020
Format:  Hardcover
: 9780648785132
For ages:  3+

Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Berbay Publishing, Boomerang Books

A Pair of Pears and An Orange

This cloth-bound retro bright latest offering by Anna McGregor oozes sophisticated eccentricity. The character cast is a fruit salad of citrus and pears yet despite the obvious lack of humans in this tale of friendship and inventive problem solving, kids as young as three will find, A Pair of Pears and An Orange deliciously relatable.

Little Pear and Big Pear share their days together, riding tandem, playing table tennis and rocking on see saws until one day a rogue orange rocks their apple cart. Little Pear immediately accepts the interloper, inviting him to join them but Big Pear questions the logic of this new addition. All of their erstwhile couple orientated games no longer work with Orange as the third wheel. Soon, Big Pear feels squeezed out by this new arrangement. Orange and Little Pear are seemingly oblivious to Big Pear’s bruised feelings.

Big Pear decides to split, leaving them to join the three peas whose games of piggy in the middle also prove difficult for her to fit in. With a mushed up heart that misses her old friends, Big Pear returns but this time is able to teach them some new games, games that are perfect for three.

This spring-coloured feast of friendship is a comical yet touching tale accentuating the value of adapting and exercising tolerance that is100% on trend with primary school playground social trysts. Bonus points for creative use of homophones and making fruit appealing!

Title:  A Pair of Pears and An Orange
Author /Illustrator:  Anna McGregor
Publisher:  Scribble, $24.99
Publication Date:  June 2021
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781922310750
For ages:  3+

Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Scribble Books, Boomerang Books

There’s Only One Friend Like You

The thing I love best about Jess Racklyeft’s latest addition to the, There’s Only One…Like You picture book series, is the sublime flow of visual candy from cover to cover. Racklyeft suffuses every available space with heavenly hued water coloured characters creating a sense of soft wonderment and infinite charm. Each animal character underscores the accompanying verse describing such concepts as, The Friendship Band, sharing craft time and the fluidity of friendship with all its ebbs and flows. Text and illustrations work in unison creating a personalised sense of directness with the reader that allows them to immediately reference their own special friendships. Perhaps the most enduring message of this tribute is that true friendship is resilient to time and distance, surviving on love and mutual respect; an especially important notion for youngsters to understand in this current age of distance-everything.

Title:  There’s Only One Friend Like You
Author /Illustrator:  Jess Racklyeft
Publisher:  Affirm Press, $19.99
Publication Date:  November 2020
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781922400390
For ages:  4 – 8

Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Booktopia, Boomerang Books



Norah Colvin said…
What a gorgeous collection. I love books about friendship.
DimbutNice said…
Coz ya gotta have friendsssss! :-)

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