cover image Wanted: Best Friend

Wanted: Best Friend

A. M. Monson. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1483-0

In her first picture book, Monson (The Secret of Sanctuary Island) tackles an often sober theme-the obligations of friendship-and spins it into a touching and very funny story. Tired of being beaten again and again at checkers, Mouse asks his best friend, Cat, if the pair can play a game of crazy eights instead (""When we play crazy eights, I win sometimes,"" says Mouse). When Cat refuses, Mouse decamps in a huff. Cat decides that finding a new best friend will be easy: all he has to do is advertise for one in the Hollow Log Gazette. The first candidate is a gluttonous, slovenly Mole who cleans out Cat's snack cache, spreads peanut butter on Cat's beloved checker board and then sprays orange soda in Cat's face. A jockish Otter and an irresponsible skateboard-riding Raccoon follow, with even less satisfactory outcomes. Cat finally sees the error of his ways: real friendship, he discovers, is a two-way street. Monson unfolds the story with the lightest of touches and a generous dose of humor, while Munsinger (Tacky the Penguin) serves up irresistibly adorable watercolors of well-padded, comfortably clad animals. The artist's expressive cast conveys every nuance of the story, ensuring that kids will recognize each scenario here-and empathize with the characters, too. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)