When the United Nations first proclaimed July 30 as International Day of Friendship, the idea was to shine a spotlight on how “friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.” Nine years on, we certainly want to celebrate friendship’s power in today’s world.
If you can visit a library or a bookstore, these are great choices to help you help a friend to celebrate. If you are in quarantine this year, start making a list of books to enjoy when you can get out and about again. In any case, we want to bring some friendship into your reading life.
In keeping with both the theme of friendship and the international aspects of the United Nations, French author Gilles Baum’s My Panda Sweater, published by Barefoot Books, is illustrated by Barroux, who has lived in France, Morocco, the United States, and Canada. The Youth Services Book Review describes this picture book: “In this sweet story, a little girl not only shares a beloved piece of clothing, but her compassion and friendship as well.”
Cassava Republic publishes in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, so Princess Arabella and the Giant Cake also arrives with international roots as well as a story about friendship in action. Dutch author illustrator Mylo Freeman’s eponymous princess and her royal friends spend this adventure in the series trying to bake the best cake for Granny’s birthday. The United Kingdom’s BookTrust calls this a “joyful, multi-ethnic tale in the Princess Arabella series, with vibrant illustrations.” Plus cake!
Series books for kids are another way of making friends inside of books. The Junior Library Guild selected Pablo Albo’s Hedgehog and Rabbit: The Scary Wind, illustrated by Gomez, and published in both Spanish and English editions by NubeOcho, of Spain. In this picture book episode, the friends have to face something fearful together. Can you guess what it might be?
Polish author illustrator Pawel Pawlak’s Oscar Seeks a Friend, published by Lantana and translated to English by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, is a picture book for older as well as very young book lovers. When two lonely beings find each other, a “delightfully unique and heartwarming story about friendship” follows, as School Library Journal notes.
How about an American story of friendship retold with a stylistic twist from Asia? Dip into Manga Classics’ version of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, adapted (gently) by Crystal S. Chan and with full manga art treatment by Kuma Chan. Tom and his friends Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher get into and out of scrapes minor and major. If you haven’t visited these pals for a while yourself, the story might hold some surprises for the 21st century reader.
Considerably older than the story of Tom Sawyer is that of the unusual friendship between a monkey and a crocodile. Tiny Owl Books has published Under the Great Plum Tree, a new adaptation of this fable from the ancient Indian Panchatantra, which dates back more than two thousand years! In this picture book version by Indian author Sufiya Ahmed, with lovely and colorful illustrations by Iranian artist Reza Dalvand, themes of friendship and trust are explored accessibly, another fine inspiration for this year’s International Day of Friendship. As eight-year-old Liam, who reviewed this one for Kids Bookbuzz notes, “The story shows what true friendship is all about.”