This book is a lavishly illustrated work in full colour addressing the issues of friendship across the barriers of age, gender and ethnicity. It also addresses a boundary not often broached in books for this age group – though happily less rarely than in the past – namely the boundary between disabled and non-disabled people.
The text of the book is sparse. It is delivered in rhyme with a recurrent motif of ‘Together we can…’ It deals with important issues such as how to make friends with people who are in distant places and how to detect if someone is lonely and badly needs a friend.
Often when reviewing books of this kind we comment on the extent to which the illustrations support the text. In this book it’s the reverse. The role of the text is to punctuate the dominant illustrations, a virtue in a book for non-readers or early readers.
The inclusion of one character in a wheelchair and another with an eye-patch is a welcome development, save for one illustration. When the children are flying kites, the boy in the wheelchair is depicted with his chair tipping perilously back, the front wheels raised high off the ground. No one is paying the slightest attention to what would be a serious accident in the making.
In another illustration the children are seen tending an open fire without adult supervision. What health and safety officers would make of this scene is left to the reader to determine.
It is heart-warming to see the child in the wheelchair depicted like any other child on the front cover of this book. A minor character, but given welcome prominence.