EducationDaily Booklist: Friendship picture books for young readers


During Book Week – 19 to 25 August – EducationDaily will publish a daily book list, with recommended reading across picture books, and books for primary-aged readers, as well as YA  fiction and non-fiction.

My youngest child started school aged just four and a half. That’s standard practice in my homeland the UK but not so much here in Australia where, seven years later, she’s consistently the youngest in her class – often over a year younger than her classmates. I sent her ‘early’ because 1: as my super smart third baby I knew she could handle herself and 2: becoming a single mum meant I needed to get back to work. Not necessarily in that order.

What caught me by surprise was that her ability to keep up academically wasn’t the challenge I thought it might be. The real hurdle was overcoming her lack of social skills when it came to navigating playground politics. I still have a vivid memory of unceremoniously bursting into tears, when her Matilda-esque teacher Miss Pretty figured out she’d had a particularly bad meltdown because her one friend had been off sick, leaving her alone in the playground all week.

It was the beginning of us working together to put a plan in place to help her build resilience, and she eventually thrived so I have no regrets. Except one: I wish I’d stumbled across this list of friendship-themed books to help us both walk through it…

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Pig the Pug

written & illustrated by Aaron Blabey

pig the pug red book cover

Pig the Pug is the first in a series of 10 Pig the Pug books. It’s hilarious and heartwarming story about a grumpy, greedy pug named Pig. He eventually learns the value of friendship after some harsh lessons about hoarding and selfishness after refusing to share with his friend Trevor. A handy one to have in the toolkit for dog-loving tyrants.

The rhyming picture book opens with the lines “Pig was a Pug and I’m sorry to say, he was greedy and selfish in most every way”.

Author Aaron Blabey is an Australian author and illustrator from Bendigo, Victoria. He grew up dreaming of co-piloting the Millenium Falcon and ended up subliminally messaging greedy little children (an ode to his rhyming style which I hope he appreciates).

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Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

written by Mem Fox & illustrated by Julie Vivas

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge book cover

I think I bought our first copy of Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge before I bought my first baby’s first outfit. It’s a touching story about a young boy who helps his elderly friend from the nursing home next door regain her memories. It’s an Australian literary icon that’s been in print since 1984.

The book begins “There was once a small boy called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and what’s more he wasn’t very old, either. His house was next door to an old people’s home and he knew all the people who lived there…”

Mem Fox is an acclaimed Australian author known for her beloved picture books. She named Wilfrid after her grandfather, who lived at the Helping Hand nursing home in North Adelaide, in the hopes it would inspire teachers of young kids to reach out and make contact with the isolated older generation.

The Very Itchy Bear

written & illustrated by Nick Bland

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The Very Itchy Bear book cover

The Very Itchy Bear tells the story of a flea, an itchy bear, the bird who helps him find relief – and the unlikely friendship formed when the realises how much he misses his pesky little sidekick.

The rhyming book opens with these words “Bear is here, and here is Flea (but Flea’s a little small to see)”.

Nick Bland is an award-winning author and cartoonist known for blending humour with heartwarming messages. He was born on a farm in Lilydale in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, the son of an artist and a primary school teacher. When he moved to the outback at the age of 6, he discovered a whole new world and his colourful imagination blossomed.

Edward the Emu

written by Sheena Knowles & illustrated by Rod Clement

edward the emu book cover


Edward the Emu is tired of life as an emu. On his quest to be someone els3 he meets a merry band of seals, lions, snakes and more. They teach him to genuinely love being himself, and to make real friends along the way.

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“Edward the emu was sick of the zoo, there was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do, and compared to the seals that lived right next door, well being an emu was frankly a bore.”

Sheena Knowles is an Australian author who was born in Geelong, Victoria. She was an award-winning advertiser before writing a series of classic Australian children’s books featuring lovable, relatable animal characters.

Feathers for Phoebe

written & illustrated by Rod Clement

Feathers for Phoebe book cover

Continuing the Rod Clement theme is this cute story of self acceptance,  told through the eyes of a little grey bird. The Feathers for Phoebe are meant to help her transform into a head-turning beauty like her friend Zelda, but this makeover doesn’t go to plan and there are life lessons to be learned.

Her story begins with the words “Phoebe was small and grey and she didn’t like it. Not one little bit”.

Rod Clement is a talented illustrator and picture book author, known for whimsical illustrations and thought-provoking stories. His most recognised works include Olga the Brolga and Edwina the Emu.

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The Terrible Plop

written by Ursula Dubosarsky & illustrated by Andrew Joyner

The Terrible Plop book cover

The Terrible Plop is a rhyming picture book based on a Tibetan myth. A mysterious sound sends every animal in the forest running for dear life, and little rabbit learns that some things aren’t as scary as they seem in this humorous exploration of courage in the face of the unknown – the power of friendship.

“Here is the story of the Terrible PLOP, with a bear and a rabbit, and a hop hop hop.”

Ursula Dubosarsky is a versatile Australian author of fiction and non-fiction novels, picture books, and more for children and young adults. She has won five New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards (more than any other writer in the awards’ 30-year history) and in 2020 she was appointed the Australian Children’s Laureate.

The Coat

written by Julie Hunt & illustrated by Ron Brooks

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The Coat book cover

The Coat weaves a tale of friendship and sharing in a group of animals inhabiting a magical forest. The eponymous coat stood in a paddock at the end of a row of strawberries, buttoned up tight, stuffed full of straw, and angry.

“’What a waste of me!’ it yelled. Then along came a man. ‘I could do with a coat like that,’ the man said. Together, swooping and swinging, they travelled to the Cafe Delitzia, and had the night of their lives.”

Julie Hunt grew up on a Tasmanian farm and in her spare time she has now built a mud brick house out there, with a composting toilet called ‘Shatto’.

Too Many Cheeky Dogs

written by Johanna Bell & illustrated by Dion Beasley

Too Many Cheeky Dogs Papa Mawal-Mawalpa Tjuta book cover

Also named Papa Mawal-Mawalpa Tjuta, Too Many Cheeky Dogs follows the lively adventures of a mischievous dog and his loyal friends in a remote Indigenous community. These naughty camp dogs tear their way through numbers, colours and days of the week and crash head first into a hilarious finale.

“On Monday I went to my auntie’s house and guess what I saw? ONE yellow cheeky dog sleeping on the floor.”

Johanna Bell is a Katherine-based Australian author and storyteller who captures the essence of the outback in her stories. She regularly partners with Dion and together they have also created Go Home, Cheeky Animals!

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These Australian authors and their picture books beautifully capture the essence of friendship, exploring the unique relationships between their heroes and heroines and sharing valuable lessons in heartwarming stories that resonate with young readers and their families worldwide.

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By Charlie
Charlie Writes is a Sydney based, London born, Caribbean writer, interviewer and poet. A colourful 27 year career has taken Charlie from typing poems on the spot on her 1970’s typerwiter named June, to donning a hard hat as a roving reporter in the construction industry. All while living out her favourite quote that the greatest adventures begin with a simple conversation.