It’s easy to forget what being a friend really means. Frank Murphy and Charnaie Gordon’s picture book, A Friend Like You (Sleeping Bear Press 2021) is a gentle lesson (and reminder) of all the things that make friendship so magical. It is a roadmap for being a true friend to all. It is a roadmap for making our world a better, kinder place.
A Friend Like You acknowledges that you will meet lots of people and some will become your friends. And being a friend has many important qualities. The words, interwoven with the illustrations, convey exactly the things that a friend should be: “Be a curious friend” – ask questions and really listen to the answers. Focus on hearing your friend’s story, hopes, and dreams. “Be an accepting friend” – friends rejoice in the many ways we are all the same and different. “Be an open-minded friend” – be friends with lots of different kinds of people. “Be a forgiving friend” – mistakes happen, don’t let it ruin a friendship. These (and more) are the lessons to be found in A Friend Like You.
The illustrations have lovely movement and capture a beautifully diverse group of kids getting along, playing, supporting each other, and working out problems together. The pictures celebrate all the wonderful aspects of friendship. Kayla Harren beautifully illustrated all the books in this series, including A Boy Like You (Sleeping Bear Press 2019), A Girl Like You (written with Carla Murphy) (Sleeping Bear Press 2020), and A Teacher Like You (written with Barbara Dan) (Sleeping Bear Press 2021).
Over the past two years, A Boy Like You and A Girl Like You have been my go-to picture books for giving. A Friend Like You is definitely on this year’s list! I picked up my (first, but not last) copy at The Bookshop, where two years ago I had the privilege of hearing Frank Murphy read from A Boy Like You.
At the end of A Friend Like You, the author’s note suggests the reader send a handwritten letter to a special friend to remind them of the importance of their friendship. This message resonates with me because my dad was a big letter writer. Letter writing is a lost art, yet who doesn’t LOVE getting real mail?
If my dad met someone new, he sent a letter saying how nice it was to meet them. If someone did a kindness for one of his children, he sent a thank you letter. When I moved away from home, my dad wrote me once a week for over a decade, always reminding me that he loved me. What a special gift.
I hope everyone who reads this review gets a copy of A Friend Like You and takes a moment to send a letter to a special friend. Friendship is a gift that needs cultivating. It is not something that should be taken for granted. Whether you’re young or old, or somewhere in between, it’s always a good time to let your friends know how special they are to you!