Friendship 101

h1 June 10th, 2021 by jules


Some picture books make me want to immediately (and magically) transport myself into a school library again so that I can share them with students. Amanda McCardie’s Let’s Play!: A Book About Making Friends (a UK import, published by Candlewick in May), illustrated by Colleen Larmour, is one of those. I can readily imagine the rich discussions with children that would emerge from reading this book together.

This book openly admits that it is a how-to guide of sorts: Just look at the subtitle. And that doesn’t make it seem like it’ll be a terribly compelling or interesting read, but oh, it is. It’s the story of a girl named Sukie “and how she made friends.” Sukie is at a brand-new school; her family has just moved, and she doesn’t know a soul. On the first spread, pictured below, she stands in a sea of new faces. And she’s looking vulnerable, isn’t she?


“This is the story of Sukie and how she made friends.
It started when her family moved and she had to go to a new school.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


The author and illustrator lay out, step by step, how it is that Sukie makes friends. “[S]ome of her new classmates started being friendly.” That’ll do it! But exactly how did they do it? McCardie and Larmour have got you covered: We see very specific instances of ways that the children made Sukie feel included, and we read that each time, she “felt warm inside and wanted to be friendly back.” Yes, that’s how this friendship thing can work. To explicitly, and respectfully, explain this to child readers can lead to some thoughtful discussions about various ways to reach out a hand in friendship (especially if you’re working in an elementary setting and see some relationships go very, very wrong).

We hear a lot about emotional intelligence these days — and the picture books all about them. This one has it in spades. Because Sukie knows that “friendliness is catching,” she reaches out to a shy student. And she keeps trying, learning the value of “friends making friends with the friends of their friends.” She even has an encounter with a boy who turns her down when she asks if she can help with his puzzle. Here, when she talks to a friend about it, the author explains what “confiding” is. Better yet, her friend responds with: “Sometimes I want to play on my own, too.” Once again, emotional intelligence for the win. There’s also an instance of allyship, when a classmate makes fun of Sukie’s red hair. It’s not called “allyship,” mind you; it’s “Joe was a brave, loyal friend that day.” Attaboy.

Even the author’s note is emotionally intelligent with statements like: “This book doesn’t show things going wrong between friends, even though sometimes they do. Instead, I wanted to focus on what it can look like when friendships go right.” There’s also: “Maybe you have friends in your life right now, or maybe you don’t. Either way, I hope this book will help you reach out to the people around you and to think about what it really means to be a friend.” Well, hallelujah. We could also use a little more of that.

Larmour’s illustrations capture a diverse group of elementary students with spacious, uncluttered spreads and a brightly colored palette. Children will linger over the vignettes of children navigating their social lives at school. Here’s another spread. …


“Sukie found that she and her friends were alike in a lot of ways. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


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LET’S PLAY! A BOOK ABOUT MAKING FRIENDS. Text copyright © 2020 by Amanda McCardie. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Colleen Larmour. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

One comment to “Friendship 101”

  1. Aww, the illustrations are so cute – I love the outlines of things — indicating that they maybe are make-believe, or maybe are less important than the colored-in bits – either way, it adds a lot of visual interest. Definitely here’s to emotional intelligence! We all do need more of that.

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