Best Friend on Wheels by Debra Shirley, illustrated by Judy Stead, is a great way to teach your child that people with disabilities are still people. Our narrator is a second grader who’s teacher asks her to show “the new girl” around. She is surprised to see that “the new girl,” Sarah, was in a wheelchair. At first she didn’t know what to do, but once she got to know Sarah, she discovered they had a lot in common! They became best friends and now do all their favorite things together: painting, reading, having sleepovers, scrapbooking, and hot air balooning! They even go dancing–Sarah loves ballet–“Shes spins on her wheels and twirls every which way.” Some people only see a wheelchair when they look at Sarah, but our narrator only sees her best friend.
Don’t Worry Bear is an adorable book by Greg Foley. The titular protagonist, a little bear, is concerned for his friend the caterpillar. Caterpillar is hard at work on a cocoon. He’s going to stay inside it for a while, but promises Bear he’ll see him soon. Bear comes to check on him at night with a flashlight, but Caterpillar assures him he’s not afraid of the dark. Bear comes again when it’s windy and rainy and snowy, but Caterpillar assures him he’s well protected from the elements. Bear is almost care-free until one day he visits the cocoon and find it lying empty on the ground. Caterpillar is gone, but in his place is Bear’s newly transformed friend, a beautiful silk moth!
A Visitor for Bear is an endearing tale by Bonny Becker with soothing illustrations by Kady MacDonald Denton. Bear seems quite sure he does not like visitors. He even has a sign on his door saying “NO VISITORS ALLOWED” which is why he’s taken aback by a persistent mouse who continues to show up uninvited. “Vamoose!” he tells the mouse and “Be gone!” but he keeps appearing again and again. Finally Bear gives in. The mouse can stay for one cup of tea, but then he must leave. But when the mouse compliments Bear’s home, appreciates his headstands, laughs at his jokes, Bear discovers he does enjoy company after all tears his sign down.
The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish is by frequent collaborators author Neil Gaiman (well-known for his fantasy work for adults) and illustrator Dave McKean. The trouble begins when our narrator offers to swap everything in his room for his friend Nathan’s two goldfish. But Nathan’s not interested, so he offers up his dad (against the advice of his little sister). It seems like a fair trade, but Mom is not pleased, so the boy goes to swap the fish back. Unfortunately Nathan has swapped Dad to Vashti for an electric guitar. And Vashti swapped him to Blinky for a cool gorilla mask. And so on. To what lengths must our narrator go to get his dad back? Find out in this funny book.
My Friend is Sad is an Elephant & Piggie book by Mo Willems (of The Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny fame). It stars elephant Gerald and his best friend Piggie. Gerald looks sad, so Piggie decides to cheer him up. She disguises herself as a cowboy (Gerald loves cowboys), but he is still sad. She dresses up like a clown (a funny, funny clown), but that doesn’t work either! Piggie enters in full robot costume (a cool, cool robot mind you), but Gerald seems even more depressed than he was originally. Finally Piggie tries to reason with Gerald, but as soon as he catches sight of her he is instantly happy! He gives her a big hug and tells her all the amazing things he just saw. How could one be sad around a cowboy, clown, or robot, Piggie wonders, but Gerald lets her know all those great things mean nothing without a best friend to share them with!
A Mama for Owen, written by Marion Dane Bauer, is a charming story of a baby hippopotamus named Owen who loses his mother during a storm and is adopted by a 130 year old tortoise. It’s based on a true story! After a tsunami, in 2004, a baby hippo was rescued by Kenyan fishermen and taken to the Haller Park wildlife preserve. Upon his arrival, the hippo began following around an ancient male tortoise named Mzee, and Mzee didn’t seem to mind at all! This strange pair became best friends, subsequently garnering a lot of media attention. To this day tourists come from across the globe to witness the unique relationship between these mis-matched animals. A Mama for Owen features adorable illustrations by John Butler and is a truly heartwarming story for children 1-5.