Diverse Children’s Books about Friendship for the Classroom

Diverse Children's Books about Friendship for the Classroom

Friendships help us develop trust, compassion, and a sense of belonging. In these books about friendship, your students will see characters sharing, cooperating, and seeing different perspectives.

Diverse Children's Books about Friendship for the Classroom

Making Friends and Developing Social Skills

Friendships help us develop trust, compassion and a sense of belonging. However, for some children making friends is a challenge. This may be because they are afraid of approaching other children or struggle with social cues. 

Starting school is one of the most significant times in a child's life to make new friends. Some children will confidently walk into their new classroom. For others, it is an overwhelming experience. They may hang around the doorway, too shy to enter. It can be challenging for these children to make new friends because of their fears.

Why Read Picture Books about Making Friends?

These picture books about making friends illustrate characters who share, cooperate and see events from different perspectives. Your students will see characters using different strategies and working towards making positive friendships. These books about making friends will support your students in knowing they are not the only one who finds it difficult and there are ways to help.

Questions to use with Picture Books about Making Friends

  • What characteristics did [character] have that made them a good friend?
  • What characteristics was [character] looking for in a friend?
  • Why was it essential that [character] cooperated with [character]? Do you think [character] could complete the task by themselves?
  • What was the relationship between [character] and [character]?
  • How could [character] put aside their feelings towards [character] to work together? Why is it sometimes hard to cooperate?
  • In what ways did [character] depend on others?
  • How can positive friendships with others help us overcome difficult situations?
  • What characteristics make up a good/healthy/positive relationship?
  • What are the benefits of a good/healthy/positive relationship?
  • How can your actions affect a friendship with others?
  • How does (honesty, communication, empathy, etc.) affect a friendship?

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Picture Books about Making Friends and Developing Social Skills

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu by Refiloe Moahloli

In southern Africa, there is a belief called ubuntu. It is the idea that we are all interconnected, and these connections are what give us purpose. Showing kindness to others is showing kindness to ourselves; harming others hurts ourselves.

Promotes discussions on kindness, empathy, community, interconnectedness, compassion, and unity.

Anton and the Battle by Ole Konnecke

Anton and the Battle by Ole Konnecke

Two friends compete for dominance in the fun picture book about one-upmanship. Their bravado disappears when they see a small puppy and rush up a tree.

Promotes relationship skills, responsible decision-making and self-management.

Art & Max by David Wiesner

Art and Max have different approaches to the creative process. Chaos ensues when Art paints Max, literally. Art becomes a line drawing, and Max uses his creativity to put him back together. They learn to accept each other’s differences.

This wordless book promotes creativity, forgiveness and enthusiasm.

Be a Friend by Salina Yoon

Dennis looks at the world differently, but he is lonely and misunderstood by his classmates. In the playground, Dennis kicks “an IMAGINARY ball…” and is surprised when a girl kicks it back, starting a new friendship.

Promotes open-mindedness, relationship skills and self-esteem.

Big Hid by Roisin Swales

Big and Little do everything together, but one day Big hid! Little doesn’t understand why Big won’t come out of his shell. Little gave Big a great big hug and Big didn’t feel like hiding anymore. 

Promotes self-management, wellbeing, friendship and compassion.

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman

An unlikely friendship develops between a boy and a robot even though they don’t understand how the other functions, they accept their differences.

Promotes themes of acceptance and friendship.

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems

Over the course of three seasons, City Dog and Country Frog become friends. One Winter City Dog returns to the countryside to find Frog is no longer there. Dog finds a new friend for his visits to the country, but Frog will not be forgotten.

Promotes the passing of seasons, relationship skills and wellbeing.

A Day So Gray by Marie Lamba

On a cold day, a fed-up girl only sees winter's grey and dull colours. Her optimistic friend encourages her to look closely at her surroundings. She takes her time and starts to see orange berries, blue water, purple shadows, and much more!

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The first of three picture books about friendships by Jacqueline Woodson. The Day You Begin considers the difficulty of entering a room where you don’t know anyone. We are “an only” until we share our personal stories in these situations. Woodson reminds us that we are all outsiders, and it takes courage to be ourselves.

Read to promote discussions on empathy, identity, growth mindset, open-mindedness, relationship skills, self-awareness and self-esteem.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

The second of three picture books about friendships by Jacqueline Woodson. Chloe and her friends have been excluding the new girl Maya. When her teacher does a lesson on kindness, Chloe reflects on her behaviour and regrets “each kindness I had never shown.”

Promotes relationship skills, inclusion, kindness and reflection.

Eat Pete! by Michael Rex

A monster visits Pete with plans to eat him. But Pete is thrilled to have someone to play with and keeps the monster busy. Will he ever get to eat Pete?

Promotes discussions on friendship and self-management.

Emmett and Caleb by Karen Hottois

Emmett and Caleb are best friends, next-door neighbours, and do everything together. Despite their close relationship, they have very different personalities, leading to misunderstandings. They give each other time and space before patching things up when this happens.

This translated book promotes discussion on forgiveness, communication, friendships, and tolerance.

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina

Best friends, Evelyn and Daniela, have to say goodbye when Evelyn’s family has to move away. As her house is packed up, the two girls play with each other in their favourite places. They know they will always be best friends, no matter where they live.

Promotes themes of resilience, adaptability, and relationship skills.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

In a Peshawar refugee camp, both Lina and Feroza find a matching sandal. They build a friendship and share the sandals, wearing them on alternate days. Lina and her mother are chosen to emigrate to America and gives the sandal to Feroza. But Feroza hands it back telling Lina they will share the sandals again one day.

Promotes a sense of belonging, compassion, friendship and social awareness.

Friends Are Friends, Forever by Dane Liu

Dandan spends her last night in China before immigrating to America with her best friend, Yueyue. It is Chinese New Year’s Eve, and the girls make red snowflakes and hang them outside. Yueyue gives Dandan red paper and a spool of red thread for her to carry on their tradition in America. It takes time, but Dandan finds a new friend to make red paper snowflakes with. 

Promotes discussions on adaptability, immigration, kindness and Lunar New Year.

Half a World Away by Libby Gleeson

Best friends, Amy and Louise, do everything together. When Amy moves far away, the best friends learn their relationship can last over any distance.

Read to reinforce themes of relationship skills, friendship and communication.

Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love

Julian joins his friend Marisol at the wedding of two brides. After their wedding roles as ring bear and flower girl, the two get up to all sorts of fun involving a messy dog, fairy wings and fairy house.

Use to discuss acceptance, love, and friendship.

I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon

After a yellow creature eats his friends, he sets off on a journey to find a new companion. At last, he comes across a monster who will be his friend. However, not all is well. The new monster is alone on the last page, having just eaten his new friend.

Promotes themes of cause and effect, friendship and loneliness.

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies

A lonely Italian boy moves to the Welsh countryside. An unexpected friendship with an old man who races pigeons helps him feel like he is no longer a stranger and that he belongs in his new home.

Reinforces themes of belonging, friendships, immigration, loneliness, and patience.

Let's Go For a Drive by Mo Willems

Gerald wants to go for a drive with his friend Piggie. They start planning the trip and collecting all the things they will need. When they are all organised, they realise they don't have any transportation. They don't let this worry them too much and find another way to spend their day.

Promotes discussions on problem-solving, planning, enthusiasm and friendships.

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

A lion discovers an injured bird and nurses it back to health. The two become close, but as spring arrives, the bird returns to its family, now flying north. The lion continues on with its life, and as autumn comes around, the lion hears the familiar sound of the bird.

This wordless book reinforces themes of empathy, relationship skills, compassion and kindness.

Little Beauty by Anthony Browne

A lonely gorilla learns sign language to communicate with his zookeepers. They bring him a tiny cat called Beauty and the two become inseparable. When the gorilla gets angry, his keepers threaten to separate the pair, until the kitten steps into the keep them together.

Use to discuss communication, friendships, kindness, loneliness and self-management.

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni

Little Blue and Little Yellow are best friends who hug each other so that they turn green. They need to figure out how to find their true and original colours. Reinforces the themes of acceptance, cooperation and friendship.

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

When a boy finds a penguin at his door he sets out to help the sad-looking bird find its way home. After dropping the penguin on the ice, he starts his journey home. It felt strange to be on his own so he searched for the penguin. After a fruitless search, the boy sets off home only to discover the penguin searching for the boy.

Promotes compassion, loneliness and a sense of belonging.

Lotus and Feather by Ji-li Jiang

Lonely Lotus cares for Feather, a crane injured by a bullet. They grow closer and the crane follows Lotus everywhere. One day, the little girl knew she had to let Feather migrate with the other cranes.

Promotes discussions on empathy, kindness, loneliness and friendship.

Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl

Mabel’s home is the Mermaid Hotel. A mysterious guest has Mabel thinking she is a villain on the run. As she keeps a curious eye on her, she learns Madame Badobedah has a kind and gentle side. The two develop a compassionate and adventurous friendship.

Molly and Mae: A Friendship Journey by Danny Parker

During a train journey, two friends, Molly and Mae, experience the up and downs of friendship from laughter to disagreements and finally to forgiveness and reconciliation.

My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems

Gerald is sad. She dresses up as a cowboy, clown and robot to cheer him up. Despite her efforts, Gerald gets sadder and sadder. Piggie removes her costume and talks to Gerald, who is happy to see her. He explains he got sad because she was not there to see the fantastic cowboy, clown and robot!

Promotes discussions on relationship skills, kindness, empathy, and compassion.

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald

Cartwheel’s new home is an immigration camp where she struggles to settle. With the help of a new friend, she makes a smooth transition and is no longer lonely

Reinforces themes of acceptance and belonging.

Omar, The Bees and Me by Helen Mortimer

New student Omar brings his mother's honey cake to school. He tells the class how his grandfather used to keep bees. Omar's knowledge sparks a class project about bees before spreading into the local community.

Promotes discussions of interconnectedness, sustainability, friendship, and community

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

The third of three picture books about friendships by Jacqueline Woodson. Jacqueline Woodson addresses race relations with two young girls, one black and one white. A fence segregates their homes, but they slowly get to know each other by sitting on this barrier. 

Promotes tolerance, communication, friendship and open-mindedness.

On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah

Best friends Brit and Etho play on Sudden Hill creating amazing projects from cardboard boxes. When a new boy, Shu, wants to play, Brit can't help but feel jealous and refuses to play. Etho and Shu help Brit accept this new friend by visiting with an unfinished cardboard contraption.

Pool by JiHyeon Lee

A boy stands in his goggles and dives into a pool full of people. He meets a girl who shows him the way to a forest of fish and plants. They play with the fish and watch a whale before it leads them to break cover in the busy pool. This wordless book promotes relationship skills and creativity.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett

Sam and Dave plan to dig up something spectacular, but they keep missing their prize. Their dog keeps digging until they all fall down into what seems to be their backyard. But is it?

Promote cooperation, enthusiasm, friendships, perseverance and inference.

The Sandwich Swap by Kelly DiPuccho

Best friends Lily and Salma do everything together but disagree when they don’t understand their cultural lunch choices. When they taste each other's food, they realise friendship is more important than their differences.

The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry

An old scarecrow successfully keeps all the animals away from his field until a baby crow crashes at his feet. Having never known friendship, the lonely scarecrow adopts and cares for the fragile bird. A loving bond develops between two should be rivals and lasts for many years.

The Secret Garden by Claire Freedman

After the death of her parents in India, a young girl is sent to live in Yorkshire at the home of her uncle. Alone and bad-mannered, she explores the estate and discovers a neglected and secret garden. With the help of a young gardener, she makes new friends and returns the garden to its former glory.

Reinforces themes of curiosity, determination, loneliness, and friendship.

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

Fish and Snail live together in the pages of a book and can travel from book to book. Snail stays and waits for Fish to describe the stories from the other books. They argue when Snail refuses to join him. Fish swims away into a new book, and Snail confronts her fears to reunite with Fish.

Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

Thelma the pony wants to be a unicorn. When her dream came true, she realises pretending to be someone else is not as much fun as she thought. She returns home where she can be herself.

Promotes themes of friendship, self-esteem and identity.

We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Penelope Rex's first day of school doesn't quite go as planned when she eats her classmates. Unsurprisingly, the other children are scared of her. She finally learns a lesson that helps her understand how her classmates feel.

Promotes empathy, self-management and making friends.

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Two turtles use their integrity and willpower when they find a hat in the middle of the desert. The tension and humour build in three parts, concluding with a spectacular ending.

Promotes perspectives, friendships and responsible decision-making.

Where the Heart Is by Irma Gold

Where the Heart Is by Irma Gold

Based on a true story. Old Joao finds a penguin covered in oil on a beach near Rio de Janeiro. He nurses it back to health and the penguin stays with Joao long after it is healthy. After a year, the penguin travels over 8,000km to a penguin colony in Patagonia only to return on the long journey to visit the old man.

Use to discuss friendship, connections, caring for others and a sense of belonging.

You Will Be My Friend! by Peter Brown

Lucy travels through the forest to let the animals know they are her new friend. They all back off from her single-minded attempts at friendship. Will Lucy find the friend she is looking for?

Promotes themes of enthusiasm, friendship and patience.

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What Next?

Friendships are an important part of school life but can often be something of a minefield to navigate and can prove challenging for children. Their confidence will grow with each new encounter, even if each one doesn’t end with more than an exchange of smiles.

These books about friendships will help young children understand what it means to be a good friend and how to handle friendship problems. What friendship books do you use in the classroom?

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Diverse Children's Books about Friendship for the Classroom

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