From their earliest days playing together on the beach to adulthood, with marriages and children of their own, Rey, Nattie, Bobby and Tam are a team, and this warm-hearted and inclusive picturebook tells the story of their friendship.
Celebrating differences in an understated and effective way, this book delivers important messages that will resonate with readers of all ages. Children who are curious about ‘what comes next’ will enjoy unpacking the life journeys in this book, while those who are focused on their own little corners of the world will be given a gentle nudge towards a broader picture.
The storyline is uncomplicated – the boys grow up, which brings changes that must be addressed and resolved – but a host of events are illustrated along the way, providing snapshots of other stories waiting to be told, and we see the boys valuing and nurturing their friendship in ways young readers will relate to and understand.
Each boy has different talents and interests, but their enjoyment of each other’s company takes centre stage. Text and illustrations work together to show them supporting one another and learning to express their feelings. Difficulties in achieving the ‘ideal friendship’ are recognised, and realistic scenarios demonstrate how and why challenges occur and are resolved.
The text specifically refers to ‘building a friendship’, and we’re shown the effort and commitment this takes, as well as the enjoyable outcomes. As the boys grow, they begin to compete with each other, and the need to explore other friendships in their teenage years is acknowledged as a natural part of growing up. Towards the end, the text can be read as a realistic and sensible guide to creating better relationships, and it’s very welcome to find it in the context of young men developing these vital skills.
‘The boys knew they had to be able to talk about their feelings, but it wasn’t easy. Just as they had when they were small, the friends worked together to make things better. They came to realise that no boy is an island, and the bravest way to face problems is to talk and to listen. They learned to be patient and kind with one another again, making their friendship stronger than ever.’
The Boys is a companion volume to the award-winning The Girls, and follows the same enjoyable format. It’s worth noting, though, that instead of the break-up of an adult relationship as featured in The Girls, the ‘weight of sadness’ being addressed at the end of The Boys concerns the death of Bobby’s dog, which may be more a more accessible concept for younger audiences.
Like The Girls, this is a book that will be given by adults to their friends, and there’s much here for tweens and teens to enjoy and benefit from, too. But it does feel comfortably aimed at younger audiences, and families with preschool and primary-age children will feel at home sharing it.