When you were a kid, did you ever have a best friend move away? I was six when my family moved to a new city six hours away from where we were living and six hours away from my best friend who lived next door. I was devastated. Big life changes are just as hard for kids as they are for adults, maybe sometimes even harder. Kids are still learning to process and make sense of their emotions, and losing a best friend can be difficult.
I like to use age-appropriate books to help my kids handle big life lessons. Reading about a character that is going through the same thing my kid is going through really helps in so many ways. They get to see how the character deals with the same problem. They are comforted by the fact that they aren't the only person in the world dealing with the issue. Reading about life lessons gets the ball rolling between me and my kid, and we have more meaningful conversations after reading. With this in mind, I was so excited when Berlin-based children's book publisher offered to send me a copy of one of their latest books, Friends Forever.
This Norwegian-translated picture book by Roald Kaldestad and Bjorn Rune Lie is a perfect choice for kid dealing with losing a friend.
A boy misses his best friend every time it rains. Since she moved away, he feels lonely and isolated from everyone around him, even his classmates and family. One day, the mailman brings him a surprise letter from her with a chocolate bar inside. The treat makes him feel a little better, but a chocolate bar isn't the same as having his friend back. In the end, a new girl moves into the house next door, and the boy opens himself up to making new friends.
The emotional mood in this picture book is very strong, and the illustrations by Bjorn Rune Lie create scenes on the page that use the boy's outer world to reflect his inner world. Gloomy, rainy, overcast, and with swirling winds blowing everything up in the air are the best ways to describe his outer view and also his inner view.
I like that this story didn't try to solve the boy's problem right away. So many times, when my kids are struggling with something, I tend to rush in and try to make things better. Even though the story ends on a hopeful note for the boy, this book doesn't try to rush him through his emotions. He is allowed to be sad and mad about losing his best friend. That notion that every one grieves on their own time is a lesson that I found very valuable in this story. The publisher labelled this as a book best suited for ages 6-9, and that sounds about right.
Thank you to Little Gestalten for sending me a copy of Friends Forever! If you haven't checked out the book publisher that the New York Times Style section says "marries thoughtful storytelling with supercool visuals", go to the Little Gestalten website to browse from their amazing selection. On the front page of their web shop, they quote George Bernard Shaw, "Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself." I couldn't agree more!