I found today’s Perfect Picture Book at Dussman’s, a large German book store with a large foreign language section in the heart of Berlin, where I’m visiting my son who is studying abroad.
I traveled to Europe last Monday at the last-minute (and with no picture books in my luggage), to support him and several of his friends following the tragic, unexpected death of his close high school friend and former roommate.
While not about death or those dealing with the world-stage events besetting so many children, I believe today’s Perfect Picture Book is a touching reminder that loss, whatever its cause, has consequences, and that many rainy days elapse as we process our grief.
Title: Friends Forever
Written By: Roald Kaldestad
Illustrated By: Bjørn Rune Lie
Translated By: Rosie Hedger
Publisher/date: Little Gestalten/2016 (originally published in Norse, Magikon Forlag/2014)
Suitable for Ages: 6-9
Themes/Topics: loss, moving, friendship, grief
Two hundred and sixty-nine rainy days. He watches the leaves as they float and fall from the trees like the pages of a calendar. Two hundred and sixty-nine days. And whenever it rains, he misses his best friend.
A young boy misses, and reminisces about, his best friend who has moved from his neighborhood, and comes to terms with the separation.
Links to Resources:
- The Main Character and his friend have buried an object that was special to them. Have you ever buried or set something special in a secret hiding place with a friend?
- Has one or more of your friends or relatives moved away, or have you moved from friends or relatives? How did you feel? If you felt particularly sad or lonely, what did you do to feel better?
Why I Like this Book:
Friends Forever is a child-centric exploration of loss and the process of grieving and surviving a separation. In the story, the unnamed male main character mourns the loss of his female best friend who has moved away. He thinks of her especially on the many rainy days, which he has counted since she left. As life moves on for his family, the boy continues to think, and dream about, his friend, reminiscing about shared moments and wondering about her new life. But as the skies clear, a new girl moves into the friend’s vacant home, and the reader feels hopeful as the main character views her as a possible new friend.
Although Friends Forever is about a European child in a two-parent home, I can envision children who have lost loved ones to death or separation, or who have experienced traumatic events or moves, to find comfort in the story, much of which happens in the forests where the friends had played together.
With its higher word count and muted color palette, Friends Forever has an older feel to it. Lie, a graphic designer by profession, incorporates a 1950s esthetic, even as he incorporates modern touches, such as the father working on his laptop. While one may question the jacket illustration, which, incidentally was not the original cover in the Norse edition (see below), it brought to my mind the Lost Boys of Peter Pan or the books of my own childhood filled with “western” adventures that, today, seem insensitive.
A Note about Craft:
At 48 pages, Friends Forever is longer than the typical American picture book, with a higher word count as well. American writers may, in fact, wonder that so many extra details and side stories are included. I think Kaldestad was trying to capture the main character’s mood and resignation by drawing out the text, something that I don’t believe the typical American publishers would allow.
Interestingly, the original title, To hundre og Sekstini dagar, or, “Two Hundred and Sixty-nine Days,” is a title that I don’t believe a US publisher would use for a picture book, and even the German publisher has changed it.
Friends Forever is told from the point of view of the child left behind. We learn, though, that the friend who has moved also misses him by the inclusion of packages she sends him.
For more images from Friends Forever, visit Lie’s website.
Friends Forever is available in the US and was reviewed by Kirkus in 2016.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!