cover image How to Grow a Friend

How to Grow a Friend

Sara Gillingham. Random, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-385-37669-3

Friendships, Gillingham suggests, need tending—just like plants. “To grow a friend,” she starts, “first plant a seed in good soil.” A page turn shows a close-up of a boy and girl smiling over a bucket of soil, into which a bird drops a seed. The children, just two in a cast of ethnically diverse friends-in-the-making, have rounded heads and wide, Betty Boop eyes, a retro look that will be familiar to fans of the author’s board books. There’s lots of movement and activity as water sprays from a sprinkler in dynamic curves and the children swing from a tree and race downhill in a wheelbarrow. Gillingham keeps the friends-as-plants metaphor going: “If a friend is drooping, do something sweet,” she advises, as the girl appears with an armful of flowers to cheer up the boy. The pair work out disputes (“Sometimes a friend bugs you”), make each other happy, and “grow” their circle of friends. Upbeat without glossing over the effort needed to see friendships through “rain and shine,” it’s a promising classroom readaloud. Ages 3–7. Agent: Amy Rennert, Amy Rennert Agency. (Jan.)