Many parents dream about their kids becoming doctors, lawyers, engineers, or architects. But the truth is, all parents just want their kids to be happy, kind, and friendly. We want them to grow up to be good people.
We love stories that celebrate friendship, joy, kindness, and love between friends. Here are some of our very favorite picks!
Back to Front and Upside Down
Full-color illustrations throughout
It’s the principal Mr. Slipper’s birthday, and while the rest of the class gets busy writing cards for the occasion, Stan becomes frustrated when his letters come out all in a muddle. Stan is afraid to ask for help, until a friend assures him that nobody’s good at everything. And after lots and lots of practice, Stan’s letters come out the right way round and the right way up.
This delightful book deals with a common childhood frustration and will remind readers that practice pays off and that everyone has to ask for help sometimes.
Kids can add their own personal touch with a coloring page. Crayons not included.
Purchase Back to Front and Upside Down at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Ages 10 to14
A relatable novel-in-verse about loss… and what happens afterwards
Twelve-year-old Birdie Briggs loves birds. They bring her comfort when she thinks about her dad, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. Life without her dad isn’t easy, but at least Birdie still has Mom and Maymee, and her friends Nina and Martin.
But then Maymee gets a boyfriend, Nina and Martin start dating, and Birdie’s mom starts seeing a police officer. And suddenly not even her beloved birds can lift Birdie’s spirits. Her world is changing, and Birdie wishes things would go back to how they were before. But maybe change, painful as it is, can be beautiful too.
With compelling verse and a lighthearted touch, Eileen Spinelli captures the poignancy of adolescence and shows what can happen when you let people in.
Purchase Birdie at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Brother Hugo and the Bear
A clever tale that will charm book lovers
Brother Hugo can’t return his library book — the letters of St. Augustine — because, it turns out, the precious book has been devoured by a bear! Instructed by the abbot to borrow another monastery’s copy and create a replacement, the hapless monk painstakingly crafts a new book, copying it letter by letter and line by line. But when he sets off to return the borrowed copy, he finds himself trailed by his hungry new friend. Once a bear has a taste of letters, it appears, he’s rarely satisfied!
Brother Hugo and the Bear is loosely based on a note found in a twelfth- century manuscript — and largely on the creative imaginings of author Katy Beebe. Lavishly illustrated by S. D. Schindler in the style of medieval manuscripts, this humorous tale is sure to delight readers who have acquired their own taste for books.
Purchase Brother Hugo and the Bear at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Seventh grader Jun Li is a brilliant student, more comfortable around computers than people. But his world turns upside down when the principal accuses him of a cyberbullying incident. To prove his innocence, Jun has seven days to track down the true culprit.
Jun’s investigation will bring him face-to-face with computer hackers, a jealous boyfriend, and more than one student who has been a victim of bullying. But he discovers along the way that everyone’s story is more complicated than it seems — and that the people he meets might have more in common than they think.
Purchase Bullying.com at Amazon, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Other Editions: HardcoverWith my old-people lunches in wrinkled plastic bags, I was basically a freak of nature at Parker Junior High. Like, “Come see the kid with seven heads” or, “Come see the kid who’s alive in a jar.” Everything I did — opening my locker, turning in homework, drinking from the water fountain — was so freakish the whole school had to stare. I didn’t even have to do anything stupid like trip or spill food. Just by being myself, I was the most ridiculous person alive. After getting suspended from school, Ethan Oppenheimer is uprooted from his comfortable suburban life in Pennsylvania and sent to live in Washington, D.C., with grandparents he hardly knows. At Parker Junior High, he stands out as the only white student. Making friends there is difficult; fitting in, impossible. It doesn’t help that his overprotective grandparents expect him to live their old-fashioned, frugal lifestyle.
As he tries to find his way in this new world, Ethan also struggles with issues from the world he left behind — guilt about the events surrounding his suspension, anxiety about his parents’ separation, loneliness for the company of his family and friends.
Slowly, Ethan adjusts. He makes a few friends; he joins the jazz band and learns a new instrument; he even gets used to dried-out dinners at 4:30 pm. Along the way he learns a lot about prejudice and acceptance — and about himself and his changing family situation.
Read a review of the book by our own Rachel Bomberger on EerdWord.
Purchase Ethan Suspended at Amazon, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Four Feet, Two Sandals
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year- old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one.
As the girls go about their routines — washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America — the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.
Four Feet, Two Sandals was inspired by a refugee girl who asked the authors why there were no books about children like her. With warm colors and sensitive brush strokes, this book portrays the strength, courage, and hope of refugees around the world, whose daily existence is marked by uncertainty and fear.
Purchase Four Feet, Two Sandals at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Friends of Liberty
It’s 1773, and Boston is in political turmoil. As tension rises between England and the colonies, lines are being drawn between the Loyalists and the Patriots. And Sally Gifford, a shoemaker’s daughter, finds herself on the opposite side from her best friend Kitty Lawton, the daughter of a wealthy merchant.
Sally is torn between her cherished friendship and her loyalties to her own family and community in their fight for freedom. As the conflict continues to grow more charged in the weeks leading up to the Boston Tea Party, Sally finds within herself a bravery she didn’t know she had, and ultimately takes a stand for what she comes to find is most important.
Purchase Friends of Liberty at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Get On Your Bike
Ages 4 to 8
An inviting book about resolving conflicts
Bobby and William aren’t quite sure how the argument started, but it escalates until William gets so frustrated he tells Bobby to leave. Bobby does just that, hopping on his bike and furiously riding away. As he travels through the city and into the countryside, though, he begins to calm down. Maybe William had a point after all? Bobby bikes back into town, hoping William will forgive him, and discovers that he’s not the only one who wants to apologize.
With mesmerizing illustrations reminiscent of Richard Scarry, this vibrant book offers a sensitive, realistic portrayal of a conflict. . .and a compromise.
Purchase Get on Your Bike at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Gilgamesh the Hero
Full-color and b&w illustrations
This is one of the oldest stories in the world, and it’s about things that still matter to us today: friendship, fame, courage, happiness.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu are friends — best friends. Together they can work wonders, fight monsters, brave earthquakes, travel the world! But waiting in the dark is the one enemy they can never overcome.
Retold by award- winning author Geraldine McCaughrean, and illustrated with great power by David Parkins, Gilgamesh the Hero is a story that will linger in the imagination long after the book has been put down.
Purchase Gilgamesh the Hero at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
The Golden Key
A children’s classic with stunning new artwork
When young Mossy hears the legend that anyone who manages to find the end of a rainbow will be rewarded with a golden key, he becomes determined to do exactly that. But finding the golden key is the easy part — discovering what it unlocks is a much harder task. Together with a runaway girl named Tangle, the two set out to find the key’s purpose — and discover their own along the way.
George MacDonald’s beloved fairytale is brought to life by Ruth Sanderson’s sumptuous illustrations, making this a perfect gift for readers of all ages.
Purchase The Golden Key at Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
A Good Day
The cat and the tiger are best friends. Every day, the cat enters the zoo and visits the tiger’s cage. They talk about everything, but when the cat confesses that he’d like to be big and strong like the tiger, he’s shocked to learn that the tiger envies him for being free to go wherever he wants. The tiger has a plan to escape from the zoo and find his real home—all he needs is some help from his best friend.
Animal lovers of all ages will fall in love with this fanciful story about friendship and freedom.
Purchase A Good Day at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
I Am a Bear
Ages 4 to 8
An emotionally stirring book about kindness and friendship
Life isn’t easy for a bear. Not when he has to sleep on the sidewalk among cardboard boxes and old clothes. Not when he lives in a city full of people who are repulsed by him. Not when he’s hungry and homeless. But one day a young girl smiles at the bear, and he realizes that maybe there is something that could make life a bit easier — a friend.
This poignant, heartwarming tale will move readers of all ages and inspire them to be more compassionate and empathetic towards others.
Purchase I Am bear at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
If Nathan Were Here
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
If Nathan were here, we would meet in our tree fort. . . we would take the shortcut through the woods. . . we would try to splash each other in the puddles. . .
In If Nathan Were Here, author Mary Bahr gently explores the grief of a young boy whose best friend has died. With the help of an understanding teacher, a kind neighbor, and an empathetic parent, the boy finds ways to give expression to his questions and sorrow and to reach out to someone else who needs him.
Mary Bahr’s evocative text conveys a child’s grief with honesty and sensitivity, while Karen Jerome’s soft watercolors poignantly capture the tender nature of children’s friendships.
Purchase If Nathan Were Here at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
A Less Than Perfect Peace
A return to the beloved characters in Annie’s War.
Four years have gone by since fourteen-year-old Annie Leigh Howard joyfully welcomed her father back from World War II. Life isn’t back to normal quite as Annie once hoped, though. It is now January 1950 and the Cold War has begun to grip the nation. The family has finally settled in after a major move from Seattle to Tacoma, but Annie’s once outgoing and gregarious father, now blind from the war, is retreating from the outside world.
Annie is determined to help her father once again embrace life. In the midst of her efforts, she meets Elisabet VanderVelde and her handsome twin brother, Johannes, refugees from Holland. Through them, she comes to see the world differently–to understand the nature of sacrifice, and the truth that loss in wartime is not limited to those that fight on the battlefield.
Full-color illustrations throughout
Lily loves to read . . . so much so that she forgets to do anything else. She reads right through summer, fall, winter, and spring. But one day Lily meets a girl who hates reading. Milly invites Lily to have adventures of her own outside the pages of a book — and Lily shows Milly that books can be exciting, too.
Gillian Shields’s heartwarming story of imagination and friendship will resonate with book lovers of all ages, and will remind readers that adventures, whether on or off the page, are best with a friend along.
Purchase Library Lily at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Mikis and the Donkey
Ages 8 to 12
Another moving animal tale from the award-winning author of Soldier Bear
One day, Mikis’s grandfather has a surprise for him: a new donkey waiting! Mikis falls in love with the creature, but his grandparents tell him that the donkey is a working animal, not a pet. However, they still let Mikis choose her name — Tsaki — and allow the two of them to spend their Sundays together. Mikis and Tsaki soon become fast friends, and together the two have some grand adventures. Eventually, both Mikis and his grandfather learn a bit more about what exactly it means to care for another creature.
Brought to life by drawings from Philip Hopman, Bibi Dumon Tak’s gentle, humorous story is perfect for any readers who may have their own soft spot for animals.
Purchase Mikis and the Donkey at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Friendship, fear, loneliness — these are things that are universally experienced but difficult to describe. In this arresting poetry collection, Synne Lea explores these concepts and more through the thoughts and experiences of a family. As the family members examine their connections with each other and the world around them, they gain a deeper appreciation of love and friendship and learn how to reach beyond the confines of their own isolation.
Accompanied by breathtaking artwork, these enchanting poems will stay with readers long after they have turned the final page.
Purchase Night Guard at Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Not Exactly Normal
He was always so normal!
Todd Farrel attends tiny St. Luke’s Episcopal School in rural New England. Each year the sixth graders finish winter term with their big social studies reports. Wanting to make his report something special this year, Todd finally decides to write about mystical experiences — something definitely not normal. After doing some research, Todd determines that he needs to have his own mystical experience.
While practicing soccer with his best friend, Nitro, listening to an unusual teacher who encourages original thinking, and giving in to his curiosity about Leda, the intelligent but unusual (in Todd’s opinion) girl from California, Todd discovers some pretty extraordinary aspects to life in his ordinary world.
Not Exactly Normal is a book about being different and about fitting in, about accepting the differences of others and seeing ways that everyone is alike. It will challenge readers’ assumptions and help them look at the world and their lives in new ways.
Ages 4 to 8
A joyous glimpse into different cultures
Children living in different parts of the world see very different things when they gaze out of their windows. One child looks out over a boulevard lined with palm trees, another sees a train whistling past snow-capped mountains, and another waves to her father as he tends to their garden. But while their lives may seem different, there’s something important that they all share.
This beautiful book will spark readers’ curiosity and imagination with its celebration of global diversity.
Purchase Outside My Window at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Phone Call with a Fish
Ages 5 to 9
A story for anyone who has felt like a fish out of water
There’s a boy in class who doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t yell when a student steps on his foot, and he writes his answers to the teacher’s questions on the board. One of his classmates is trying to understand why he’s so quiet, but she can’t figure it out. But then one day the class goes to the science museum, and she discovers a phone with an aquarium full of fish on the other end of the line. And the fish, as it turns out, aren’t silent after all—they just have their own way of communicating.
This empathy-building story will encourage readers to approach others with compassion and understanding.
Purchase Phone Call with a Fish at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
The Rabbit and the Shadow
Ages 5 to 9
An imaginative story about growing up and growing together
Three strangers meet in the forest, each on their own quest: the cat is looking for his ball, the angry soldier is searching for peace, and the rabbit is learning how to grow up. They decide to hike to the top of a volcano together, and along the journey they help each other confront their own fears and insecurities. Though the paths they take are bumpy and tangled, eventually they all manage to find just what they’re looking for.
Perfect for fans of the Frog and the Toad series, this stunning ensemble book offers a coming-of-age tale about fear, dreams, journeys, and family.
Purchase The Rabbit and the Shadow at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Roger Is Going Fishing
Ages 4 to 8
Roger and his neighbor Emily are heading to the lake to do some fishing. But the city sidewalks are crowded—so crowded that Emily accidentally catches a few things that are decidedly not fish. A small mob starts to chase after her and Roger, but soon everyone discovers that a trip to the lake is just what they needed to cool off.
This zany read-aloud from the author of Roger Is Reading a Book shows readers that sometimes a series of mishaps can turn strangers into friends.
Purchase Roger is Going Fishing at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Roger is Reading a Book
Ages 4 to 8
A hilarious, lively story that celebrates the joy of reading
All Roger wants is some peace and quiet so he can read his book. Unfortunately, the girl in the apartment next door has hobbies of her own — very loud hobbies! But when Roger gives the girl a book of her own, she discovers that reading can be just as much fun as playing basketball or banging a drum.
This playful and engaging read-aloud from an award-winning Belgian author shows readers that shared activities can lead to rewarding friendships.
Purchase Roger is Reading a Book at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Samira and the Skeletons
Samira likes school, especially when she gets to sit next to her best friend, Frida. But when they learn about the skeletal system in science class, Samira suddenly begins to imagine everyone in school as a walking skeleton. Soon she starts avoiding her fellow classmates, even Frida, but Samira still can’t escape her own skeleton. With some clever help from her mother, though, Samira realizes that maybe having a body full of bones isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Enhanced by delightfully impish illustrations, Camilla Kuhn’s playful book depicts the hilarious results of an imagination gone awry.
Purchase Samira and the Skeletons at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
A Story Like the Wind
Ages 9 to 14
A masterful story about the power of hope
Rami is in a small dinghy filled with strangers, all of them refugees seeking a safe harbor. But with no motor, no oars, and a rising tide, their situation looks bleak. So Rami pulls out the only thing he brought with him—a violin—and begins to tell his fellow refugees a story through his music. And his story, about an indomitable white stallion and its struggle for freedom, gives them all the strength to remember the past and hope for the future.
A Story Like the Wind is a beautifully illustrated fable that shows how music and stories can bring people together. Readers of all ages will be entranced by this sweeping story that feels both new and timeless.
Purchase A Story Like the Wind at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Thomas the Toadilly Terrible Bully
An entertaining book about a timely topic
Thomas hates being ignored. But when his attempts to impress everyone don’t make him any friends, he decides to be a bully instead. There’s just one problem: he makes a terrible bully. A toadilly terrible one, in fact.
It turns out, though, that there’s an even bigger bully around, and Thomas discovers what it feels like to be the one bullied. But a bit of teamwork helps him outwit the bully and make a new friend. And being a friend, Thomas finds, is far more fun than being a bully.
Purchase Tomas the Toadilly Terrible Bully at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Ages 6 to 10
A poetic story inspired by Psalm 121
Jordan lives in fear of Tanya, the class bully. But Tanya has worries of her own, no matter how much she tries to ignore them. It seems impossible that Jordan and Tanya could be anything other than enemies, but the Lord is watching over them, guiding each of them along a path that might just help them to understand one another.
Nikki Grimes takes the words of a Psalm 121 and masterfully transforms them into a golden shovel poem of compassion, friendship, and faith. Coupled with powerful artwork from Bryan Collier, this heartfelt story is one that readers will treasure.
Purchase The Watcher at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
When No One Is Watching
When no one is watching, it’s easy to be brave — to dance and sing, growl and cheer. But when everyone’s watching, this book’s shy young narrator fi nds it far easier to hide. With her best friend, Loretta, though, she doesn’t feel shy, embarrassed, awkward, or odd — not one bit. Together they’re like two peas in a pod, whether anyone’s watching or not.
Any readers who have felt shy will certainly recognize themselves within the pages of this adorable book, which will encourage even the most timid of audiences with its celebration of the value of a good friend.
Kids can add their own personal touch with a coloring page. Crayons not included.
Purchase When No One is Watching at Amazon,Christianbook.com,Eerdmans, or your local bookstore.
Tags: Kids books, Children’s books, Friendship books, Raising readers
Great list! I will surely include this in my TBR! This is a useful and excellent share. Will definitely share it with people I know.