Sunday, January 22, 2006

My Best Friend

Rodman, Mary Ann. 2005. MY BEST FRIEND. Ill. by E. B. Lewis. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670059897 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

Summer is here and six-year-old Lily is clear in her own mind that her best friend during pool play-day is going to be Tamika: “Tamika is my best friend. She just doesn’t know it yet.” Lily has it all figured out that if she just wears the right swimsuit and shares all of her best things, then Tamika will pay attention to her and learn to like her. The only problem is that Tamika is a year older and plays with Shanice. Lily’s point is proven when Shanice is absent one Wednesday and Tamika plays strictly with her. Shanice is back the next week, and everything returns to normal with Lily being either ignored or the butt of the older girls’ jokes. In the background is Keesha, another six-year-old, who patiently awaits Lily’s attention. The text never mentions that all of the characters are African American.

The gorgeous watercolor illustrations lavishly caress the children as they play in the bright sun at the pool. With their squinty eyes and tense bodies, the girls look so realistic that it is hard to believe they are two-dimensional representations. Details in the paintings vividly add dimension to the characters from earrings, hairbands, and outie-belly buttons to the distinctive Popsicles the girls eat. The way Lily stands and the expressions on her face extend the text and help create a more fully realized character. Children will empathize with Lily and her struggle to realize what she really wants. This is an honest look at relationships that children will respond to with curiosity and respect.

Invite children to make a list of all their favorite things about their best friends. Invite them to write thank you cards to their friends for what makes them special.

Books illustrated by E. B. Lewis:
Grimes, Nikki. TALKIN’ ABOUT BESSIE. ISBN 0439352436
Woodson, Jacqueline. THE OTHER SIDE. ISBN 0399231161

By Cay Geisler

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