We love children’s books about friendship — stories celebrating joy, drama, and love between pals! Here are some of our very favorite friendship books!
The Ultimate List of Children’s Books About Friendship!
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” —L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
I am lucky to have had a group of best friends at my side for more than twenty years. Even luckier? At forty years old, I have one cherished friend who has been an important part of my life since we were just 2 years old, toddlers with pigtails and sippy cups and Snoopy stuffies, a friend I met at the same school where I work now. That’s thirty-eight years of friendship — thirty-eight years of sharing hopes and secrets and fears, supporting each other when it’s felt like our legs would give out from under us, cheering each other on when we needed a boost, and lending a shoulder when the tears wouldn’t stop.
I hope my boys have friends like this.
I want my kids to be successful, no doubt. I want them to be smart, confident, and creative. But more important to me than anything? I want my boys to be good friends and to have good friends — friends who are kind, trustworthy, and are always willing to lend a hand when their pals are in need. I want them to have friends who will be in their lives for the next thirty-eight years.
RELATED: We’ve got more than 100 children’s book lists on Happily Ever Elephants. Be sure to check out this link!
The importance of childhood friendships to healthy development
There can be no underestimating the importance of childhood friendships. In our youngest kids, friendships help children develop vital social and emotional skills. As kids grow, friendships teach children age-appropriate behaviors, how to be sensitive and empathetic to others’ needs, how to cooperate and negotiate, and even something that seems simple, but takes significant practice — how to converse with others.
When it comes to education, children that feel valued and appreciated often perform better in class. And what is one significant indicator that a child will feel appreciated in the classroom? Having good buddies in class with him. It has been found that children who are in the same classroom as kids with whom they have close friendships often have better attitudes about school and learning.
Even imaginary friends have proven beneficial to little ones by helping children view the world through the eyes of their most trusted “confidante.” This ability to see life through another being’s perspective is tremendously important when it comes to cultivating empathy in our children.
So what’s the point?
As parents and educators who recognize how important friendships are to our kids’ healthy social and emotional development, we must do all we can to nurture and encourage such relationships. We must provide children with authentic, inspiring examples of positive and fulfilling friendships, including all the ins and outs and ups and downs of what it means to be a friend.
One tried and true way to do this, short of modeling these relationships yourself? Use books, of course!
Children’s books about friendship teach kids about healthy relationships
Stories that showcase how to be a good friend are worth their weight in gold. Through picture books, our children learn how to navigate social challenges, listen when a friend needs help, and maintain an inclusive and accepting attitude towards not just their peers, but all people everywhere. Most importantly, stories provide a window through which kids see how generous actions and small acts of kindness can brighten a day, and — sometimes — change a life, too.
A good picture book imparts insight, of course, but it also gives children something to sink their teeth into, something to call upon when they find themselves in similar situations to those found in beloved books, tackling similar challenges or experiencing similar joys.
RELATED: We’ve got a fabulous list of kindergarten read-alouds for you on Happily Ever Elephants, so be sure to check them out
Children’s books about friendship encourage kindness
Our children are our future, so we should start investing in them now, when it truly counts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all worked towards a common goal of instilling kindness in our kids, if we teach them the importance of being good friends to those in their classrooms and communities?
There are so many fabulous children’s books about friendship that can help all of us make this dream a reality.
Without further ado, here are some of our very favorite friendship books that can be read to both preschoolers and “big kids” alike — and you may be surprised at how much they resonate with you, the adult, too. Here are some of Happily Ever Elephant’s very favorite stories.
Frequently Asked Questions
Aside from modeling what beautiful friendships look like, use books! Through children’s books about friendship, kids learn important life skills like listening, showing respect, and being kind and inclusive. Even our youngest readers can take the lessons these stories impart to heart, and they are wonderful springboards for meaningful conversation!
There are so many incredible stories, it is hard to pick just one! Two that I absolutely love are Lubna and Pebble, by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egneus, for the way it highlights compassion in such a beautiful and touching manner, and Walter Had a Best Friend, by Deborah Underwood and Sergio Ruzzier, for how it authentically portrays losing one best friend and finding another. Both are absolute treasures.
Of course! In fact, I have a whole list of friendship books that are a bit simpler than those included here, making them perfect for younger children. Check out our list of preschool books about friendship at the link.
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Friendships New and Old
It is not easy to lose a friend to someone else. Especially a best friend. It can feel overwhelmingly sad and unbearably painful, even when a friendship ends with a slow burn and not an explosive fire. Yet there is always a way forward. This fabulous book conveys the importance of self-reliance and letting ourselves feel painful emotions. At the same time, it helps children recognize that when one door closes, another opens. Even if one friend is not as forever as we had hoped, another one may be waiting just around the corner. This is such an important book for kids of all ages, validating sadness at losing someone close while simultaneously offering them hope for a bright tomorrow. I’m head over heels in love with this beautiful book about friendship lost and found!
What’s better than one rock-star creator working on a book? Three! Oh. My. Gosh. This book is simply remarkable in every way. Fogliano’s prose is, as always, pitch-perfect, authentic, and ideal for reading aloud. Combine that with illustrations by Caldecott Honorees Idle and Martinez-Neal and you basically have the most gorgeous friendship picture book ever. We simply adore how this story conveys to children that petty character traits do not matter, but caring and sharing and helping do. These are the foundations of relationships, and these actions are what all friendships build upon to become strong and true. Small things may set us apart, but big, beautiful things bring us together. These two unlikely friends will weave their way into your hearts, and your kids will beg for this one at storytime for a long time to come. An absolute gem!
Maurice and Lotta both ride their bikes every day: Maurice, to sell lemonade and Lotta, to collect sticks. They both keep to their own circles and routines, and they never cross paths. Until, that is, the day that a downed branch and a runaway lemon peel cause their worlds to collide— at the bike shop, no less! Soon Maurice and Lotta are riding together, and the coincidence that led them to one another created a friendship they were meant to have all along. We love the way this story showcases how chance encounters create lasting friendships! For our full review, of Bikes for Sale, click here!
Geraldine does not want to move! Especially to a new town where she is bound to be the only giraffe. Not when everyone in school will call her That Giraffe Girl. Eventually, though, Geraldine meets Cassie, another girl who skirts the crowd and is somewhat of a loner at school, and the two discover that there’s nothing better than standing out and being yourself — and having one true friend who helps you fit in just perfectly. We love these two and their willingness to play by their own rules!
This may be the most precious, authentic children’s book ever. We are so in love with this delightful story that celebrates new friendships — those times you meet someone and instantly “click,” knowing it’s the beginning of a long, joyful relationship. Whether laughing at each other when playing make-believe, drawing each other encircled by hearts, or continuing to love one another even though your favorite ice creams are different, this book, with its vintage feel and glorious illustrations, is simply magical. Tender, emotional, and written in pitch-perfect kid-speak, this one is a must for every bookshelf.
Clover, an African-American child, lives alongside a fence that segregates her town, and she is given strict instructions by her mother that she must never climb over. So what happens when she notices a white child on the other side of the fence, and that child notices Clover, too? The two strike up an unlikely, tentative friendship, and though both are told not to cross the fence, they decide to sit on top of it instead. Though once an angry barrier, the fence that was supposed to divide this pair instead becomes a peaceful place for the new pals to connect, inspiring other neighborhood kids to join them. This is one of the most exquisite children’s books about friendship!
In this beautiful multicultural picture book, Unhei moves from Korea and decides not to use her given name and will adopt an American one instead. Why? It’s just too different and way too hard to pronounce. Her new friends throw names in a jar to help Unhei decide, but as she tries on American names like Suzy or Laura to see if they will be a good fit, a new friend helps her remember why her name is meaningful, perfect, and the best choice of all. Sometimes friends — even our newest ones — are just what we need to help us be true to ourselves.
Friendship books about accepting differences
We fell in love with this book right from the start for the way it immediately helps kids build compassion for Henry as he searches for a friend in Classroom Six. But Henry is on the autism spectrum, and when his day becomes too close and too loud, Henry wonders if he will ever find a friend who will listen and share and like things to stay in just the right order like he does. There are few children’s books about friendship featuring neurodiverse characters, but this one is fabulous. Sensitive, authentic, and compassionate, we simply adore this story about a literal child who eventually finds what he desires most – a new friend. This is one of many phenomenal stories on our list of books for autistic children and neurodiverse kids.
In this gorgeous story, a girl called Cartwheel moves to a new country with her auntie, and in her new surroundings, everything is strange. Only a metaphorical blanket brings her comfort, until the day that she meets a new girl and the two embark on a friendship that begins with a smile. This story not only sheds a much-needed light on the refugee experience, but it reminds us that fear of “others” can dissipate so quickly by simply opening our hearts and minds. It can start with a smile, or even just a simple hello. For our full review of My Two Blankets, click here!
Favorite animal friendships in picture books
When a lion finds a wounded bird in his garden, the lion gently takes him in and cares for him because the bird’s flock has flown away. The two animals become fast friends, so when the bird departs with his flock the following autumn, the lion is heartbroken. This is such a tender portrayal of friendship and loyalty, with stunning illustrations to boot. The combination of simple text and exquisite pictures make this story sing. This is one of those perfect children’s books about friendship that resonates deeply with kids and adults alike.
Oh, how we adore this book about friendship and community, and the ways in which working together and caring for those around you betters everyone! A big bear happens along a river, not realizing adventures are so much better with friends. Along the way he meets Froggy, Beaver, and Duck, as well as the Raccoons and the Turtles. The animals had no idea they needed each other, until the river forces them together, that is. We love the way this book shows that making friends can be easy — and we can always find ways to help another!
Friendship books showing generous actions
Lubna’s best friend and confidante is a small pebble, found the night she landed in a World of Tents with her father. When a little boy arrives at the World of Tents, lost and cold, Lubna introduces the boy to Pebble. The two become friends in their new, uncertain world. When Lubna learns she and her father have found a real home and will be leaving the World of Tents, Lubna knows she has the most perfect gift to leave with the boy. Stunning, poignant, and moving, this has become an all-time favorite kindness book for kids. For our full review of Lubna and Pebble, click here!
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Amos, a zookeeper, spends time every day with all of the animals at the zoo. He delights in being a friend to each of them, and he is sensitive to their unique needs. When Amos wakes up one morning too sick to get to the zoo, Amos’s friends decide it’s time they return the favor. This is single-handedly one of the best kindness books for kids, and it is also an excellent picture book about friendship to teach little ones about empathy and compassion. For our full review of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, click here!
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A stunning, wordless exploration of the harmful act of bullying, and how one simple act of kindness by an upstander can be a change agent for the entire community. I absolutely love letting children ponder these pictures and tell their own stories. The “plots” they come up with are intriguing and insightful – and their words will give you such a significant glimpse into their minds and hearts.
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Mrs. Goldman knits hats for everyone in their neighborhood to help them stay warm during the harsh winter. But what happens when Sophia realizes that Mrs. Goldman is so busy knitting for everyone else and she has no hat of her own to wear? Sophia takes it upon herself to make Mrs. Goldman the perfect hat, and this simple act makes this a Happily Ever Elephants’ favorite kindness book for kids! I absolutely love this story of selflessness!
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Something terrible has happened to little Taylor: she cannot get over her devastation when a tower she worked so hard to construct crashes to the ground. Her friends try to help. They offer suggestions and unsolicited advice, trying everything under the sun to get her to calm down. But it is only when the rabbit sits next to Taylor and listens — just listens, quietly, calmly, and with compassion — that she begins to feel better. How I love this one! This is a favorite picture book highlighting the ever-important quality of listening and not trying to “fix” things.
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Jeremy wants nothing more than the same pair of shoes that the other kids at school wear. But, according to his grandma, Jeremy’s “wants” are not nearly as important as his “needs.” This is such a special children’s book about gratitude, one I read to my students every year around Thanksgiving because it masterfully sparks a discussion about wants and needs, as well as the fulfillment that can be found in helping others. It is a lovely story to celebrate kindness and compassion. For our full review of Those Shoes, CLICK HERE!
Friendship through challenging times
Evelyn and Daniela are best friends. Even cooler? They live in twin apartments across the street from one another. But then the day comes that Evelyn, her mami and her papi are moving away, and the two girls must say goodbye. This is such a tender book, and its text and illustrations are spot on. Every page resonates, and readers can feel the beauty of the girls’ friendship, the anticipation of the move, the sadness that comes with saying farewell and the hope inherent in promises to keep in touch. A perfect book for any child who is moving!
Red is a hothead who continuously picks on Blue. Though this bullying is witnessed by several other colors, no one is ready to stand up for Blue and tell Red to stop his taunting. But then One comes along, and One has no qualms about standing up to Red — and in doing so, One teaches his friends a valuable lesson. At once a concept book on both colors and counting, this children’s book about friendship more importantly provides a spring point for discussions on bullying, kindness, and inclusiveness. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here! For our full review of One, click here!
Brian is never seen or noticed by his classmates. He has no friends, and thus appears in the story devoid of color, making him invisible at school. Eventually, a new child winds up in Brian’s class and Brian is the first to reach out to him. When a bond forms between the two boys and they are teamed up to work on a class project, Brian finds a way to step out of the shadows and flourish. Not only does he make a new friend, but Barton’s illustrations show how small acts of kindness fill Brian up with color until he is, quite literally, a vibrant force in his classroom. For our full review of The Invisible Boy, click here!
Friendship books featuring unlikely pairs
Oh man. This children’s book about friendship is powerful, emotional, and a must have for your shelves! All the animals know that Scarecrow is not something to mess around with. But one day, when a scared little crow falls from the sky, Scarecrow surprises everyone with his tender actions. This is a stunning exploration of affection and friendship that reminds us of how fulfilling it is to help others. Absolutely in love with this one!
Truman the tiny tortoise lives with his best friend Sarah. One day, Sarah straps on her backpack, leaves their home, and boards the number eleven bus! Truman is distraught, and after waiting for her to return, he eventually can wait no longer. Truman thus sets off on a journey to find her, even though that journey may be downright impossible. We simply adore this darling book that beautifully conveys how our devotion for those we love most can help us embark on courageous feats we never knew we were brave enough to undertake.
We simply love how this book challenges the preconceived notions of an entire community – all but one small, curious girl! This is a fabulous story in which a child overcomes fear of the unknown lurking within an old castle. In the process, she discovers her inner courage, makes a new friend, and creates a big change right within her community.
This Caldecott Award winner is darling, wondrous and one of our favorite children’s books about friendship! On an island far away, an imaginary friend is born. But this poor friend has to wait until he is chosen by a real life child to become that child’s truest friend! After being overlooked time and time again, Beekle decides to journey to the big city all on his own, and only then does he find his perfect mate — and get a name all of his own. We love Beekle and this story of friendship, imagination and wonder!