Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hunter's Best Friend at School, by Laura Malone Elliott (ages 4 - 7)

I watch my children and the kids at school play, and I'm continually struck by how important their friendships are. In many ways, it's like children's friendships form the multitude of designs on the quilt of their lives - giving color, excitement, variety to their lives. Perhaps you could continue the metaphor and see children's imaginations forming the quilting patterns swirling through the top of the quilt, and their family lives forming the stuffing and the quilt backing, what helps give children's lives full substance and inner strength to last. Throughout the fall, I will try to highlight friendship stories that children enjoy and that speak to them in different ways. This will give me a theme to pull some older books, and not just new ones coming to bookstores. I'd like to start with a favorite of mine: Hunter's Best Friend at School.

Hunter's Best Friend at School
by Laura Malone Elliott
illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
NY: HarperCollins, 2002
ages 4 - 7
available on Amazon and at your local library
Hunter and Stripe are best buddies, two little raccoons in preschool or kindergarten. They sing together, play together and copy each other's silly tricks. But one day, Stripe comes to school "in a mischief-making mood" and disrupts class. Hunter isn't sure what he should do. Should he follow Stripes lead, or should he pay attention in class? Hunter decides to copy Stripe's bad behavior and ends up cutting up a paper frog he's made. Hunter returns home sad and confused, but his mom helps him sort it out. First, she gently asks questions. And then she gives some gentle advice:
"Being a best friend doesn't mean always following along. Sometimes being a best friend means you have to help your friend be his best self."
Elliott handles this difficult issue with sensitivity and integrity, helping children think about a fairly sophisticated concept. These dilemmas are really difficult, and there are no quick and easy answers. Seeing Hunter struggle and work out the right thing to do helps kids mull over their own situations in a safe way. Although this book has a clear message, the funny illustrations and the realistic struggle makes it appealing to kids. It's definitely one they can connect to, either having been through this or seen other kids do so.

The review copy came from our home library, upon the suggestion of one of my mentors, the wonderful Diane Frankenstein. Check out her book Reading Together for more great suggestions. If you make a purchase on Amazon using the links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support!

1 comment:

  1. I love this book for kindergarten and 1st grade children. It is relevant to all and makes a point in a gentle way.