Old friends, new friends by Andrew Daddo

cover image

Ill. by Jonathan Bentley. ABC Books, 2018. ISBN: 9780733338137.
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: School, First day at school, Friendship. Coming back to school for the new year, the young girl finds that she is in a new class. Her old friends are in a different class and she knows no one. Her stomach tightens and she feels uneasy, her hands feel soggy and she feels that she may cry. But she recalls her mum and grandpa. What would they say? Their strength helps her be strong, as she knows that her best friend will always be herself. She loses her stomach rumblings and joins in with the rest of the class, smiling and happy to be there, willing to be friendly with all of them each for a different reason: one to be a friend playing games, one as a friend when quietness is needed, one to eat lunch with, and looking around the classroom she can see many people who will be her friends.
Everyone has to start afresh sometime, be it a new school, a new class, a new job or group, each requires strength in seeing that you are just as important and worthwhile as the next person. For many this can be an unsettling experience and Daddo shows the young girl with butterflies in her stomach, feeling unsettled, clutching her stomach as if in pain, an image which will resonate with all readers. But inner strength is called up and all is resolved as she looks around the class of new friends.
Bentley's images of happy smiling children are infectious and readers will recognise the images of school: the children dressed with their uniforms and all important hats, running, jumping, cartwheeling as well as quietly sitting when the need arises. And I love the illustration across the book's cover, of new friends linked together, reinforcing the theme of the story inside.
Fran Knight