Tuesday, August 28, 2012

You Can Be a Friend

Being a good friend takes thought...it’s not automatic. In Tony and Lauren Dungy’s book You Can Be a Friend, a young girl learns that friendships are as varied as the people you meet.

The story opens on a hot day—“The kind of day when you’ve got to eat your ice-cream cone fast before it melts down onto your fingers.” Three siblings are playing Freeze Tag in their yard when they spy a moving truck stop at a nearby house. One of the siblings (Jade, who appears to be around 9 years old) wonders if the new family has a girl just her age that she can play with. And sure enough, they do!

Jade and her family bake a batch of cookies and rush over to greet the new arrivals, including just-her-age Hannah. Jade is thrilled to meet Hannah… until she learns that Hannah is in a wheelchair. After bidding the family goodbye, Jade is quiet. She tells her parents she doesn’t want to be Hannah’s friend because (she assumes that) Hannah “can’t do any of the things that my friends and I do.”

Dad tells Jade, “You should be friends with someone because of the kind of person they are.” Mom adds, “God made everyone, and we are all special in His eyes. Sometimes we might have to look a little harder to see that.”

Jade still worries, but her family encourages her to at least give Hannah a chance. With their support, Jade decides to invite Hannah to go bowling. Much to Jade’s surprise, she has a great time. After that, the girls spend loads of time together giggling and playing. However, a tough test on their relationship soon surfaces. Jade’s birthday is coming up, and she had her heart set on going to the water park for her party… an activity that would leave Hannah on the sidelines. Knowing Hannah’s limitations, Jade wonders if she should even invite Hannah to the party.

While she’s deciding, Jade’s brother gives her something to think about: Would she rather have fun (implying with a few friends) or be with her friends (implying ALL her friends, Hannah too.) I won’t tell you what Jade does, but in the end she does learn a valuable life lesson.

The book ends with a note from Tony and Lauren, which encourages the reader to “be friendly to everyone”. They remind readers that people may look different from you on the outside, but God loves them just the same.

Ron Mazellan created the illustrations for the book. The realistic acrylic pictures are absolutely beautiful. They contain a lot of detail and capture facial expressions quite well. The book features an African American family—I suspect modeled after Tony and Lauren Dungy’s own family.

What I Like: This book has a great stated message for kids (be friendly to everyone) and a great unstated message (don’t judge others by their appearances, judge them by their hearts). I loved the artwork.

What I Dislike: There are large chunks of text on each spread, making this a lengthy picture book. And, while the story was sweet and well written, it was fairly predictable.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: Ages 4 and up (although I believe it might be a little long for age 4)

Publisher Info: Little Simon Inspirations, 2011; ISBN: 978-1416997719; Hardcover, 32 pgs., $16.99

Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $12.99
OR Buy the e-book version for $12.99
OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $14.52.

Special Info: Tony Dungy is the former football coach of NFL Champions Indianapolis Colts. You can read a CCBR review of another book by Dungy called You Can Do It!

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