Sometimes the Best Friendships are the Most Unexpected Ones

In August, many countries around the world celebrate Friendship Day! What a wonderful opportunity to be thankful for the friendships we never expected to have. And what better way to do that than to read stories that teach us to always keep an open mind and an open heart? When searching for stories about unlikely friendship, try searching the subjects “friendship” and “juvenile fiction” or “juvenile literature” along with other subjects that might hint at differences in the characters, such as “prejudice” or “opposites.” Another approach would be to search the keyword phrase “unlikely friendship.”

Intermediate and Young Adult Fiction

Cohen, Joshua C.
Leverage. 2011.
High school sophomore Danny excels at gymnastics but is bullied, like the rest of the gymnasts, by members of the football team, until an emotionally and physically scarred new student joins the football team and forms an unlikely friendship with Danny.
[SSHEL S Collection S. C6605l]

George, Madeleine.
Looks. 2008.
Two high school girls, one an anorexic poet and the other an obese loner, form an unlikely friendship.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. G2936l]

Green, John.
Paper Towns. 2008.
One month before graduating from his Central Florida high school, Quentin “Q” Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, Q’s neighbor and classmate, takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. G823p]

Griffin, Paul.
Burning Blue. 2012.
When beautiful, smart Nicole, disfigured by acid thrown in her face, and computer hacker Jay meet in the school psychologist’s office, they become friends and Jay resolves to find her attacker.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. G8756b]

Harlow, Joan Hiatt.
Firestorm! 2010.
A twelve-year-old street urchin and the son of Chicago’s most important jeweler strike up an unlikely friendship in the days before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and both are nearly trapped when the city goes up in flames.
[SSHEL S Collection S. H227f]

Hubbard, Kirsten.
Like Mandarin. 2011.
When shy, awkward fourteen-year-old Grace Carpenter is paired with the beautiful and wild Mandarin on a school project, an unlikely, explosive friendship begins, but all too soon, Grace discovers that Mandarin is a very troubled, even dangerous, girl.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books]

Napoli, Donna Jo.
Mogo, The Third Warthog. 2008.
When Mogo is cast out of his burrow to make room for a new litter, he learns how to survive and as an unlikely friendship with a young baboon blooms, Mogo finds the joy of friendship and love.
[SSHEL S Collection S. N162m]

de la Peña, Matt.
We Were Here. 2009.
Haunted by the event that sentences him to time in a group home, Miguel breaks out with two unlikely companions and together they begin their journey down the California coast hoping to get to Mexico and a new life.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. P3706w]

Sheldon, Dyan.
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. 1999.
In her first year at a suburban New Jersey high school, Mary Elizabeth Cep, who now calls herself “Lola,” sets her sights on the lead in the annual drama production, and finds herself in conflict with the most popular girl in school.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Childrens Books S. Sh433c]

Spinelli, Jerry.
Stargirl. 2000.
In this story about the perils of popularity, the courage of nonconformity, and the thrill of first love, an eccentric student named Stargirl changes Mica High School forever.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. Sp46s]

Twain, Mark.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 1994.
The adventures of a boy and a runaway slave as they travel down the Mississippi River on a raft.
[SSHEL S Collection S.C591H1994]

Wein, Elizabeth.
Code Name Verity. 2012.
In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. W432cn]

Yolen, Jane.
The Rogues. 2007.
After his family is evicted from their Scottish farm, fifteen-year-old Roddy forms an unlikely friendship with a notorious rogue who helps him outwit a tyrant landlord in order to find a family treasure and make his way to America.
[SSHEL S Collection S. Y78r]

Picture Books

Alemagna, Beatrice.
Bugs in the Garden. 2011.
What happens when the bugs venture out into the big, wide garden to find some new friends? This sturdy board book introduces lovable bugs who learn how to accept creatures they are initially afraid of.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. Al25b]

Bramsen, Carin.
Hey, Duck! 2013.
A plucky duckling attempts to befriend a cat that just wants to be left alone.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. B7323h]

Brown, Peter.
You Will Be My Friend! 2011.
Lucy, a young bear, starts her day determined to make a new friend but her enthusiasm leads to all sorts of problems until, just as she is about to give up, an unexpected friend finds her.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. B812y]

Cannon, Janell.
Stellaluna. 1993.
Knocked from her mother’s safe embrace by an attacking owl, Stellaluna lands headfirst in a bird’s nest. This adorable baby fruit bat’s world is literally turned upside down when she is adopted by the occupants of the nest and adapts to their peculiar bird habits.
[SSHEL S Collection SE.C164S]

Folguiera, Rodrigo.
Ribbit! 2013.
When a pig visits a frog pond, sits on a rock, and says only “Ribbit!” news spreads fast, but only the wise old beetle has an explanation.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books SE. F713r]

Lionni, Leo.
An Extraordinary Egg. 1998.
Jessica the frog befriends the animal that hatches from an egg she brought home, thinking it is a chicken.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books SE. L661e]

Liu, Cynthea.
Wooby & Peep: A Story of Unlikely Friendship. 2013.
Wooby lives in a nice, quiet neighborhood where everyone minds his own business. And he likes it that way. Then noisy, energetic Peep moves next door with her banging and smashing and crashing. She even gives a “wild” PARTY! At first, shy Wooby is beside himself — until he realizes that he and Peep have more in common than he ever imagined.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. L7402w]

Long, Ethan.
Scribbles and Ink. 2012.
Scribbles the cat and Ink the mouse are two artists with very different styles. A disagreement over whose creative process is the best leads to a big mess. Discovering that they are no longer having any fun, the duo tentatively tries to collaborate and creates a masterpiece.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. L851s]

Polacco, Patricia.
Pink and Say. 1994.
The true story of a remarkable wartime friendship between a young white Union soldier and a young black Union soldier who are captured by Confederate soldiers and sent to Andersonville Prison.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books Q. SE. P757pi]

Sidjanski, Brigitte.
Little Chicken & Little Duck. 2007.
Despite the objections of their parents, who do not want them to play together, Little Chicken and Little Duck find a way to stay friends.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. Si139l]

Non Fiction:
Antle, Bhagavan.
Suryia & Roscoe: The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship. 2011.
Who can imagine an orangutan being friends with a dog? Is it even possible? With Suryia and Roscoe it is! When Suryia the orangutan first meets Roscoe, a stray dog, they become best friends from the start.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. An879s]

Hatkoff, Isabella.
Own & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. 2006.
The inspiring true story of two great friends, a baby hippo named Owen and a 130-yr-old giant tortoise named Mzee (Mm-ZAY).
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S.599.63 H286o]

Comparison Books: Opposites and Similarities

January 25th is Opposite Day, and in honor of this day our theme for this month’s blog is comparison books. Comparison books examine antonyms, synonyms, and degrees of similarity or difference. Opposite Day is a great opportunity to have fun with children while building their vocabulary and teaching them how to compare and describe objects from the world around them.

Here are three great online resources for lesson plans that teach antonyms and synonyms:
– This lesson plan utilizes “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and a game simulating baseball to teach students opposites.
– This detailed Read, Write, Think lesson plan is sponsored by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English. The author supports her lesson plan with theory.
Brain Pop Jr. provides parents and teachers with background information and activities for learning synonyms and antonyms.

In the list below opposite books appear first, while books dealing with similarities or degrees of comparison have been placed under the broader category of “comparisons.”


Augarde, Steve.
Big Nose, Small Nose. 2004.
Turn the wheels and lift the flaps to learn about opposites.
[Rare Book & Manuscript Library SE. Au41b (non-circulating)]

Blackstone, Stella.
How Big is a Pig. 2000.
Follow the trail of animal opposites through the farmyard as it leads you to the biggest pig of all.
[Education Storage Q. SE. B567h]

Cousins, Lucy.
Maisy Big, Maisy Small. 2007.
Maisy the mouse demonstrates pairs of opposites, including thick and thin, tall and short, young and old, and wiggly and straight.
[Education S Collection Q. SE. C836mai]

Cumpiano, Ina.
Quinito, day and night / Quinito, dia y noche. 2008.
In this bilingual book (English and Spanish), little Quinito and his family take the reader through a day filled with opposites, including short/tall, quiet/loud, and rainy/sunny.
[Education S Collection S. C913q]

Pittau, Francisco.
Elephant Elephant. 2001.
This book of opposites is illustrated with elephants showing concepts such as “big” and “small.”
[Education Storage SE. P686e]

Salzmann, Mary Elizabeth
Is the Treat Sour or Sweet? 2007.
This book uses colorful photo illustrations to show antonyms and includes a short activity.
[Education S Collection S.428.1 Sa39i]

Siminovich, Lorena.
Alex and Lulu: Two of a Kind. 2009.
Meet best friends Alex and Lulu. Even though they are different, they always have fun together. Until Alex begins to worry that they might be too different, that they might actually be opposites! Discover what opposites really are in this quirky story that celebrates differences.
[Education S Collection SE. Si456a]

Swinburne, Stephen R.
What’s Opposite? 2000.
This book is a photographic essay depicting opposites.
[Education Storage Q. S.428.1 Sw63w]

Wilbur, Richard.
Opposites, More Opposites, and a Few Differences. 2006.
A collection of light-hearted poems centering around words and their opposites. This collection, from a National Book Award and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, includes the full text and drawings from Opposites and More Opposites, plus seven new poems and drawings about differences.
[Education S Collection S.811 W641o]


Cleary, Brian P.
Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What is an Adjective? 2000.
Rhyming text and illustrations of comical cats present numerous examples of adjectives, from “hairy, scary, cool, and ordinary” to “tan and tall,” “funny, frisky, smooth, and small.”
[Education S Collection S.428.2 C58h]

Cleary, Brian P.
Quirky, Jerky, Extra-Perky: More about Adjectives. 2007.
An introduction to adjectives and how they help with descriptions.
[Education S Collection S.428.2 C58q]

Coffelt, Nancy.
Big, Bigger, Biggest! 2009.
Introduces young children to the language of comparison, synonyms, and antonyms, and features pictures of animals in all shapes and sizes.
[Education S Collection S.423.1 C654b]

Golden, Erin.
Big, Bigger, and Biggest Trucks and Diggers. 2008.
Readers will get to know different kinds of Caterpillar trucks and diggers in size order from the smallest to the biggest! Accompanying DVD features video of some of the biggest machines in action.
[Education S Collection Q. S.629.224 G565b]

Harper, Charise Mericle.
The Little Book of Not So. 2005.
Presents a series of comparisons, such as “Big,” “Not so Big” and “Tasty,” “Not so Tasty” on successive pages.
[Education S Collection S.428.1 H231l]

Hillman, Ben.
How Big is It? 2007.
This book features interesting facts about some of the world’s biggest things including giant squids, redwood trees and airships.
[Education S Collection Q. S.153.752 H559h]

Kompelien, Tracy.
The Pickle is Dilly, Cool, and Chilly! 2007.
This book on synonyms includes color photo illustrations and a short activity.
[Education S Collection S.428.1 K836p]

Merttens, Ruth.
Sizes. 2005.
This “Read and Learn” book looks at readers’ sizes in comparison to different animals.
[Education S Collection S.153.752 M558s]

Nieker, Diane.
Heavy and Light. 2006.
Heavy and Light teaches answers to weight comparison questions including “Is something bigger always heavier?”
[Education S Collection S.530.81 H227h]

Taylor, Barbara.
Mega and Micro. 2001.
This book by the Natural History Museum looks at the biggest, heaviest, smallest, and lightest animals. It includes interesting facts like “giant squid have eyes bigger than frying pans.”
[Education Storage S.591.41 T212m]