February is here and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. While there are lots of wonderful books about valentines and love, some kids get grossed out or bored by that lovey-dovey mushy stuff. I’ve found that books about friendship make for great Valentine’s Day reading (and every other day of the year, too!) and they encourage us to appreciate the best friends in our own lives. Here are a few of my favorite picture book pairs.
Toot & Puddle (Little, Brown & Co., 1997) by Holly Hobbie
Toot & Puddle are best friends. Toot is adventurous, but Puddle is more of a homebody. When Toot decides to set off on a year-long world adventure, Puddle decides he’d be happier at home. I love that these two like different things and they’re okay with that. Puddle’s not resentful that Toot’s going on vacation without him and Toot doesn’t get mad that Puddle won’t come along. Author/illustrator Holly Hobbie shows how they each have such a great time doing what they love, even though they miss each other. The sweet watercolor illustrations are funny and oh-so-adorable and the inclusion of Toot’s handwritten postcards to Puddle is delightful to young readers.
Frog & Toad (Scholastic, 1970) by Arnold Lobel
In a few short stories and with carefully chosen words, Arnold Lobel captures the essence of friendship with simplicity and humor. This now famous pair have shown readers over the years that friends are always there to cheer you up when you’re sad, care for you when you’re feeling sick and friends will always tell you the truth. Yes, you do look funny in that bathing suit.
George & Martha (Houghtin Mifflin, 1972) by James Marshall
Another classic picture book pair also reinforces that friends always tell each other the truth. If you don’t like pea soup, just say so! In five short stories, these two hippos get in all kinds of silly predicaments that their friendship can always find ways to solve. With delightful humor and gentle honesty, James Marshall reminds readers that everyone has flaws.
Rosie & Michael (Simon & Schuster, 1974) by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lorna Tomei
Rosie and Michael understand that everyone has their flaws and that friends love each other despite (and maybe even because) of them. The two alternate telling the reader why they are friends along with humorous black-and-white illustrations. Friends always tell each other the truth, are there for each other when they’re sad, forgive each other for pranks, stand up for each other and they try their hardest to keep the others’ secrets (and if Michael is tortured to tell Rosie’s secret, well…Rosie will understand). Like in her popular Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Viorst’s writing is funny and feels absolutely genuine. Instead of sounding like an adult glorifying what childhood is like, this book is 100% real elementary school.
Bink & Gollie (Candlewick Press, 2010) by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile
Like so with so many great pairings, these two prove that opposites attract. Bink is energetic, eccentric, and impulsive while Gollie is calm, imaginative and often the voice of reason. Together, they make a hilarious pair. In three short vocabulary-building stories, the two always seem to find adventure, fun and compromise.
Dog & Bear (Roaring Book Press, 2007) by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
In three sweet vignettes, these friends must work through solutions to simple problems and help each other out. Using simple language and bold illustrations, this book is perfect for reading aloud to a younger audience or for an emerging readers to enjoy on their own.
Gossie & Gertie (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) by Olivier Dunrea
This series of books about a pair of super-cute ducks tackles with ease the issues with friends that all preschoolers must navigate, like sharing, following, and patience. The small trim size makes it perfect for little hands.
A Visitor for Bear (Candlewick Press, 2008) by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Bear insists he doesn’t like visitors and when Mouse invites himself over, Bear does anything he can to turn him away. Luckily, friends sometimes know what we need before we even realize it ourselves. Mouse’s friendly persistence finally softens Bear and he realizes he had needed a friend all along.
Stay tuned for more books about love, friends, and unlikely pairs as we count down to Valentine’s Day. In the meantime, why not share a book with one of your friends today? Do you have a favorite picture book pair? Let us know in the comments below.