Friendships are the first relationships we choose for ourselves and often the first ones that we have to work out for ourselves (unlike family relationships, where we’re likely to be following existing relationship patterns). While some kids fall into friendships as easily as blinking, others might find it a little more difficult to build lasting bonds with new peers and classmates. Friendship dramas and fallouts can be a lot to deal with, particularly at a young age, but at the same time, the early friendships children make can sometimes last for the rest of their lives. Elementary and middle school-age are crucial times in a kid’s life, where a child is developing as the person they are, and the friendships they make during this time can have a massive impact on that — and can sometimes be a lot to deal with emotionally.
Luckily — and unsurprisingly, considering how important friendships are to children of all ages — there are thousands of children’s books about friendship out there that deal with many different aspects of friendship. Included among these books are adventure stories that are focused around tight-knit groups of friends fighting monsters or seeking treasure, stories specifically looking at friendship loss, toxic friendships, making new friends and maintaining old friendships when you move, and much more. From picture books and early readers to longer middle grade reads, this list of children’s books about friendship will help your child through the ups and downs of first friendship.
Picture Books About Friendship
A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats
This classic children’s picture book deals with the nuances of different-gender friendships for young children — something that can sadly still be seen as contentious today. Peter is having a birthday party and inviting his friend Amy, but he’s unsure whether she’ll want to attend, being the only girl.
Be a Friend by Salina Yoon
This sweet book explores friendship between children with different personalities and interests. Dennis likes to express himself through mime but is lonely when other children don’t understand his form of expression — until he meets new friend Joy.
Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love
Featuring Julián from the bestselling book Julián Is a Mermaid, this book looks at new friendship, love, and celebration. Julián and his cousin Marisol take part in a wedding, make a new friend, and cause adorable, muddy chaos at the celebration.
Lotus and Feather by Ji-Li Jiang
Following an illness, young Lotus is lonely — until she finds Feather, an injured crane. The two become fast friends, getting into multiple adventures, but Lotus realises that to be a real friend to Feather, she has to help him migrate with the other cranes.
Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Craig Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Paul Kahumbu
Animal-loving children will adore this true story of friendship between an orphaned baby hippo, Owen, and 130-year-old tortoise Mzee, who became friends when Owen arrived at the wildlife conservation park in Kenya where Mzee lived. The unlikely pair bonded and became fast friends until Owen was old enough to be socialised with other hippos.
The Not-So-Friendly Friend by Christina Furnival
Learning to set healthy personal boundaries is one of the most important lessons for anyone, adult or child. In The Not-So-Friendly Friend, Furnival teaches young-child-appropriate lessons on how to deal with a bully, how to negotiate on-and-off friendships, and how to be assertive.
Chapter Books About Friendship
Sophie Washington: My BFF by Tonya Duncan Ellis
There are many Sophie Washington books for new readers to enjoy, but My BFF is a great choice for any child negotiating a difficult or changing friendship. Sophie finds that her best friend, Chloe, has started leaving her out of things and doesn’t know what to do — especially when Chloe then asks Sophie to lie on her behalf.
Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
The first in an ongoing series, Ivy and Bean introduces readers to two sparky characters. When they meet, Ivy and Bean are both convinced that they could never be friends, but circumstances soon prove them wrong.
Jada Jones: Rock Star by Kelly Starling Lyons
This story is an ideal read for any young child who is dealing with a friend moving away. When Jada Jones’s best friend starts a new school, she feels lonely, as she knows more about finding cool rocks than making new friends. But when her teacher assigns a class project on rocks and minerals, Jada may be able to combine her hobby with her hunt for friendship.
The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng
Bookworm Anna finds reading a lot simpler than making friends. Up until now, she has always sought comfort and companionship in the stories she reads, but Anna realises that while she can learn a lot from books, she has to step outside her literary comfort zone in order to make friends.
Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian
Omar has recently moved to a new house, which comes with a new school and a need to make new friends — unfortunately, this is made more difficult by racism from the class bully. Despite the serious topic, this is a laugh-out-loud funny story for elementary readers.
Room to Dream by Kelly Yang
Third in the Mia Tang series, Room to Dream follows Mia, whose family runs a motel, and her family and friendship dramas. In this book, Mia and her family go to Beijing on holiday, and Mia processes the two different sides to her cultural identity as she builds her friendship with her cousin Shen.
Middle Grade Books About Friendship
A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
Addie, a young autistic girl living in Scotland, starts a campaign to create a memorial for the local women killed in the medieval witch trials, as she believes that many of these women would have been neurodivergent like her. Along the way, she makes a good friend in new girl Audrey, who cares about Addie’s special interests and doesn’t try to make her hide her autistic traits.
Thief! by Malorie Blackman
New girl Lydia has begun to make friends at her school when she is wrongly accused of stealing the school trophy. After running away, Lydia is caught in a freak storm and transported to the future, where she finds out the impact that the fallout from her accusation will have, not only on her own life, but on that of her new friends.
Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good by Louie Stowell
The Norse god of mischief, Loki, undergoes his greatest challenge yet when, after a prank gone wrong, he’s sentenced to attend school on Earth as an 11-year-old boy. To get back to his previous godly status, Loki has to show “moral improvement” — which includes learning to tell friends from enemies.
Pea’s Book of Best Friends by Susie Day
Following her mum’s success as a best-selling author, Pea moves to London and starts attending a brand new school. But while there are many parts of her new life that she loves, she’s lonely — so she sets herself the task of finding a new best friend.
These stories are just some of the many children’s books about friendship that are out there for children of all ages who want to learn about friendships, find ways to combat loneliness, or just enjoy a good tale. For more middle grade recommendations, check out our list of 15 Great Middle Grade Books About Friendship. If you’re an adult who needs some bookish friendship guidance, try 9 of the Best Books for Adults About Friendship.