Okay, so we all know that it’s important — and hard — to stand up to people we don’t know well, or strangers we don’t know at all, when they are doing something wrong, hurtful, or mean… But let’s be honest for a minute. It’s just as important, and often much harder, to stand up to our friends when they do wrong. And unfortunately, children’s books about standing up to our friends are often much harder to find! For an elementary audience, you all know that I love The Hundred Dresses (you can read my full review of this gem here). Today, I’ve got a delightful picture book aimed at younger readers and listeners about doing the right thing when your best friend is trying hard to pull you off track — Hunter’s Best Friend at School by Laura Malone Elliott, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.
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Hunter and Stripe are friends, best friends who like all the same things and love to do everything together. They eat the same things, together, read the same books, together, and play the same playground games, together. And all is good until one day, Stripe comes to school “in a mischief-making mood.” Playful and distracting, he begins the day trying to pull Hunter into his troublemaking with him.
And Hunter… Stripe’s antics look like so much fun, and he knows he always has fun doing whatever Stripe is doing. So, he joins in. He follows Stripe’s lead in chewing with his mouth wide open at snack, resulting in the duo being separated while they eat. And rather than finish the paper frog he has worked so hard on, Hunter joins stripe in cutting the work in which he is so proud into tiny shreds and dancing around in the resulting confetti. Neither choice bring Hunter any joy. In fact, Hunter feels “awful” and the rest of his day is “terrible.”
And we all know how Hunter feels! We’ve all been in this position, faced by a choice to either do the right thing, or to go along with what our best friend is doing, so that we can keep that connection and fun spirit going with them. It is SO HARD to do what our hearts tell us is right when we may risk disappointing or alienating our best friends.
Fortunately, Hunter’s mother has been in this quandary before, too, and understands that sometimes, we just “like going along with our friend.” And she jumps in with some sage advice: “Being a best friend doesn’t always mean following along. Sometimes being a best friend means you have to help your friend to be his best self.”
Of course, Hunter has a chance to put this advice in action the very next day, when Stripe indeed begins to act up again. Rather than following along this time, Hunter leads by example. No, he never uses his words to let Stripe know what he should be doing instead, but as we all know, sometimes actions speak louder than words. And in Hunter’s and Stripe’s cases, they do. Both raccoons do indeed have a better day, remembering how much fun they can have while also making terrific choices.
So now, help me find other titles… Besides The Hundred Dresses and Hunter’s Best Friend at School, what titles do you love that highlight the power of standing up to our friends, as opposed to strangers?