If you’ve ever watched kids interacting on a playground, you know that navigating the unwritten rules of friendship can be tricky. Agreeing on what to play, taking turns, being inclusive, and not being a sore loser…these things are hard and take practice!

That’s why we love these books about friendship for kids. Young readers learn by example, absorbing the lessons that will help them forge meaningful relationships in the real world. Here are 12 engaging (and stealthily informative) books that teach kids how to be a good friend.

Gossie & Gertie by Olivier Dunrae

Friendship books - Gossie and Gertie

At first, the best friendship between ducklings Gossie and Gertie seems imbalanced, with the bossier Gossie calling the shots and Gertie happily following her all over their farm. But their power dynamic shifts when Gertie eschews jumping in the mud to instead chase a butterfly. From this book about friendship, toddlers learn that it’s okay to take turns being in charge.

The Almost Terrible Playdate by Rich Torrey

Friendship books - the almost terrible playdate

A strong-willed boy and girl can’t agree on what to play. Emotions run high as he rejects her royal princess circus fantasy while she refuses to be a dinosaur, wolf or race car. At an impasse, they shout, “I don’t want to play with you!” Can they turn the playdate around before it’s over? All it takes is a little creativity.

My New Friend is So Fun by Mo Willems

Friendship books - My New Friend Is So Fun

Gerald the elephant treasures his BFF Piggie, so naturally he’s a bit jealous when she starts spending time with a new pal named Brian Bat. After suffering much anxiety, Gerald is relieved to learn that making new friends doesn’t diminish the relationships you already have. It can even make them better.

Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney

Friendship books - Llama Llama Time to Share

It’s hard when a new friend comes over to play and wants to touch all your toys! When Llama and Gnu get into a tug-of-war over a favorite stuffed animal, it nearly ends in disaster. (Thank goodness for Mama’s sewing kit). Learning to share takes practice, and it helps to read about it in a book about friendship!

George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall

Friendship books - George and Martha

Hippos George and Martha are friends for life, but they still have their share of troubles. Martha won’t let George read her diary. George is too busy practicing headstands to play with Martha. Yet the kind-hearted pals are brilliant at moving forward without a grudge. We could all learn something from George and Martha!

Sadie and the Silver Shoes, by Jane Godwin, illustrated by Anna Walker

Friendship books - Sadie with the Silver Shoes

In this book about friendship, the mean girls at school don’t approve of Sadie’s hand-me-down wardrobe, which is one reason she’s excited to get a brand, new pair of sparkly silver shoes. When she accidentally loses one of her new shoes in the river, it leads her to an unexpected friendship with the kindred soul who finds it. True friendship is never about fitting in—it’s about finding your people.

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

Friendship books - Enemy Pie

How do you vanquish your number one neighborhood enemy? By feeding him home-baked “enemy pie.” Or at least, that’s how one very clever father tricks his son into befriending his sworn enemy in this delightful book about friendship for kids.

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Friendship books - Frog and Toad are Friends

Frog is upbeat and optimistic. Toad is kind of a grump. But when they’re together, they can work through any problem in this series of funny and surprising stories about friendship.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead

Friendship books - Sick Day for Amos McGee

Amos McGee is no ordinary zookeeper. He takes time out of his busy day to play chess with elephant, run races with the tortoise and sit quietly with the shy penguin. When Amos takes ill, his animal friends travel to his home to nurse him back to health and keep him company. It’s a touching portrait of kindness and how the little things matter.

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

Friendship books - Strictly No Elephants

A little boy discovers he is not welcome at the kids’ clubhouse due to his tiny pet elephant. He meets a girl who has likewise been excluded for having a pet skunk. They decide to form their own club, but instead of making it exclusive, their sign reads “All are welcome.” It turns out it’s way more fun to let people (and animals) in than to shut them out.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Friendship books - The Name Jar

The new girl in school is embarrassed when the kids have trouble pronouncing her Korean name. She contemplates swapping it for a more American-sounding moniker until a classmate shows her how a true friend accepts and appreciates you for who you are.

Friendship is Like a Seesaw by Shona Innes

Friendship books - Friendship Is Like a Seesaw

If you’re looking for more of a literal friendship manual, this book is full of great tips, like being kind, helpful and open to working through problems. Throughout the animal-populated picture book, the seesaw is a metaphor for keeping friendships in balance. Being sulky or bossy or hurtful can upset the seesaw, whereas talking about feelings or taking a much-needed break can restore the balance. 

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