Here are three books about finding friends and fitting in:
The Gingerbread Man Loose in School, written by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery, $16.99, Putnam, ages 4-8, 32 pages. A gingerbread man hops off his cooling pan and races after the class that baked him in this bouncy tale about the importance of belonging. When the teacher calls, "Recess," no one grabs the gingerbread man, so he runs as fast as he can to catch up with the kids, only to get stuck to a ball, lose a toe and land inside a lunch bag. Will this zippy little cookie ever find his class and feel like one of the gang? After one read aloud, students will be clamoring to bake up their own class pet and fit him with Starlight Mint hat. Slipped into the back cover, a folded poster for your own smart cookie. The message here? Sometimes all it takes to feel a part of a group is running up to it and joining in.
I'm Here, by Peter H. Reynolds, Atheneum, $15.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages. A boy sits alone on a playground far from other children and feels like no one knows he's there. "They are there. I am here," he says with a longing look their way. The children's playful voices are "splashes upon splashes of sound," but all the boy can hear is "Boom. Boom." He tries to assure himself that at least he knows he's there, even if the other children don't seem to. Then a gentle breeze pats his head, a tumbling leaf lands for a visit and piece of paper glides to him on a lazy stream of air, rocking this way and that, slowly down, before landing at his knee. "How did you find me?" the boy asks the paper, his eyes glistening. He knows a playground is not where a paper wants to be, so he folds it into an airplane and launches it into the air. Maybe now the paper will get to where it wants to be -- and maybe, if he climbs aboard it, the boy will get there to. This sweet, touching book shows that making a little step forward can change everything.
I Love People, created by Francoize Boucher, Kane Miller, $14.99 (paperback), ages 9 and up, 120 pages. Here's a fun activity book from France that seems to say: Don't sweat it if you don't always know how to act with friends -- just do your best and let my pages help you. All readers need to get started are: "1. A small very big heart, 2. A full pencil case and 3. A taste for adventure." Boucher starts with a simple exercise; she asks readers to add 0s to the quote, "The m_re y_u l_ve people, the m_re beautiful y_ur life will be!" and then offers up social scenarios for readers to think about. For example, "Are you always ready to meet new people?" and "What's the difference between: 1. Loving something that's alive and 2. Loving an object?" There's even a page of phrases to help readers make up with a friend, including "I Wish We Weren't Mad at Each Other." Some of the other topics: how to deal with jealousy, how to share, how to help others and how to be a good person (Is it's ever OK to do to others as they've done to you? Boucher asks.) Cute, light-hearted, and full of great advice, this is the book to get a child off on the right foot (er sneaker). Fans of this might also like Boucher's I Love Words.