When a Friend Needs a Friend

Scholastic. Feb. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338813944.
PreS-Gr 2–This gentle, even-paced story follows Oskar and Aya, two friends who love to build things wherever they go. Sometimes Oskar is sad and Aya doesn’t understand why. When he withdraws for awhile, Aya tries to find ways to help. Roozeboos uses bright, collage-style illustrations and includes dialogue in as if it’s handwritten right on the page. Aya has brown skin and Oskar has light skin; the rest of the cast have various skin tones. The author notes that the story was inspired by a construction worker she knew who had a broken heart and a friend who struggled with sadness; this is an understandable starting point, but the sweet message is vague. Children may not grasp Oskar’s feelings without the help of an compassionate caregiver.
VERDICT There are many SEL books available that share a similar story in a more accessible way; pair this with Cori Doerrfeld's The Rabbit Listened or Trudy Ludwig's The Invisible Boy.

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