Reviews /

A New Friend

Authored by Lucy Menzies
Illustrated by Maddy Vian
Published by Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd

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This is a gentle tale of how two children, Joe and Mae, end up becoming friends using the concept of two parallel books telling two different perspectives which can either be read separately or as a whole spread. Joe is new to the school and Mae decides she will make sure he feels welcome. Both are interested in space: the clues are dotted in the illustrations which will engage young readers. Mae searches the playground but can’t find him, whilst nervous Joe seeks shelter at the bottom of the slide out of sight, wishing he was still at his old school. During her search Mae can’t resist taking a turn on the slide, and as she reaches the bottom, whoosh, she collides with Joe! What will happen now?

It’s a heart-warming story and one that young children will be able to empathise with both characters: about overcoming fears and facing challenges. Despite the simple narrative, written in the first person, the reader can identify many aspects of each character, using both literal and inferential nuances, but questions might also be raised to speculate further. The illustrations are clear and designed to invite the reader to explore the unspoken narrative further. Diversity and inclusion are portrayed in a restrained manner though clearly evident throughout so adults could draw upon these further if required: a great way of exploring sensitivities and unpicking worries. It would make an ideal book to be read as a whole class in Early Years and Key Stage One but would also be a great vehicle for having sensitive conversations at home, particularly with early years who may be expressing anxiety over changes in their lives.