A few months ago we asked Australia about their all-time favourite kids’ books – you can read the full list here.
One of the things that struck us was just how many of these books featured friendships at their core.
Friends and friendship groups are an incredibly important part of any primary-schooler’s life. And it’s in the infant and primary school years that we learn the fundamentals of what it takes to be a ‘good’ friend.
What role can books play in ‘making friends’?
Reading fiction can help to develop empathy in children – an important part of building friendships.
Children’s novels which feature strong friendships can also provide a model of ‘how’ to be a friend, and inspire kids with what can be achieved through friendship. (Sometimes novels also remind us about the hurt that can be caused by ‘bad’ friends.)
Here are just some of our fictional friendship favourite picks from the Kids’ Top 50 List – click on the titles or covers below to learn more about each book, and be sure to check out the entire list for more reading inspiration.
Each level of the treehouse is full of surprises, and Andy and Terry are with you all the way. They get into plenty of scrapes and adventures, but at the end of the day Andy and Terry are fast friends – in real life, too!
Many readers love the camaraderie between the kids in Enid Blyton’s The Magic Farway Tree. As 5-year-old Sadie says: ‘the children love Silky and Moonface and help each other when the goblins come’. If helping each-other when the goblins come isn’t true friendship, we don’t know what is.
#14 The BFG
We love Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant. Although they become friends under rather unusual circumstances, once they team up they’re practically unstoppable! An important lesson in how good friends can come in shapes and sizes.
We count this wonderful novel – about Auggie, a fifth-grader who was born with facial abnormalities and is starting mainstream school for the first time – a must-read for pretty much every child of around eleven.
Ten-year-old Ruby and her Mum told us on Facebook that Wonder:
‘shows that it does not matter what you look like or how much you have,
it all comes down to what you have to offer as a friend and what is on the inside.’
Auggie’s story shows us friendships being forged, that friends can be betrayed with careless words, what happens when we take the time to learn what people are truly like inside, and what kids can achieve when they stick up for one another. In a subplot we see his big sister Via drifting away from her friendship groups and rediscovering old connections.
How wonderful for Anne, who had never had a real friend – only imaginary playmates – to find a neighbour like Diana in Avonlea. And how dreadful when Diana’s mother temporarily separated them after a misunderstanding!
“’Miss Barry was a kindred spirit after all,’ Anne confided to Marilla,
‘You wouldn’t think so to look at her, but she is. . . 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.’”
Karen wrote on Facebook, ‘How lucky they were to have each other. All through my teenage years I dreamt of having my own bosom friend like that.’
#31 Charlotte’s Web
The classic story of Charlotte the spider, Wilbur the pig and the other farmyard animals focuses on kindness, loyalty, trust and how friends can help us solve problems. It’s heartbreakingly sad towards the end, but leaves readers understanding that close friendships will continue to influence us throughout our lives.
One of our favourite children’s book quotes comes from Charlotte’s Web:
“‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’”
Dahl’s classic has a lovely portrait of intergenerational friendship. Eight-year-old Ellie and her mum told us:
‘I like that Charlie has a good friendship with his grandpa Joe just like I have with my Pa.’
Grandpa Joe is sensible, kind, thinks Willy Wonka is a genius, and is Charlie’s closest friend and confidant. (There’s also a subtle warning in the book about putting too much trust in fairweather friends.)
Honourable mentions: Harry, Ron and Hermione in #11 The Harry Potter Series, Greg and Rowley in #22 The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series, Alice-Miranda, Millie and Jacinta in #33 Alice-Miranda to the Rescue, Tom and Derek in #49 The Brilliant World of Tom Gates and Felix and Zelda in #50 Once.
Which are your favourites? Tell us in the comments!