FRIENDS

Rob Lewis, Author, Rob Lewis, Illustrator . Holt $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6691-3

When young Oscar, a rabbit, moves to a new house, his quickness to judge others makes establishing friendships in his neighborhood difficult. Lewis, a native of Wales, knows exactly how a child—especially an insecure one—can be brutally honest in sizing up peers: Ernie, who likes to play with junk, "didn't smell very good"; Charles, an intellectual sort, is discarded because "Oscar didn't like anyone who was smarter than himself." The hero walks home alone, a small, solitary figure in what seems a very lonely world. But Oscar's mother offers some good counsel: "If you want to make friends, then you will have to join in with what they like doing." Oscar sees the truth in her advice as he watches the other rabbits playing with one another, and his new willingness to meet them halfway gains him companionship in the thing he likes to do most: swim. In his prose and his tableau-like acrylics, Lewis never shies from depicting the pain of feeling left out. In the soothing tone of his narrative and serene vignettes, he shows that making friends can be easy and fun ("He played ships with Ernie in the junkyard…. He built a train with Charles"). That makes Oscar's emotional turnaround and the joyful conclusion in the swimming hole feel authentically uplifting. Ages 3-6. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
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