Let's Be Friends: A Lift-the-Flap Book
“Board books are for the youngest readers, those who chew pages as well as turn them.”
Board books are for the youngest readers, those who chew pages as well as turn them. The bright illustrations and flaps to peer under in Let’s Be Friends will certainly appeal to that group.
Lemay, the author-illustrator, shows a series of different people and how they can be friends, whether cat person or dog person, boy or girl. Each pair is presented, such as “Athlete. Apple pie baker.” followed by the question “Can they be friends?” The flap is lifted to affirm that yes, of course they can. This rhythmic repetition is something kids will appreciate. Less effective, however, are some of the word choices. “Athlete”? Will a preschooler know what that is? Why not simply say “soccer player”? “Serious” and “Silly” work well. But “Raspberry all day. Bubble gum or bust.” leads to the question “or bust what?” Is the bubble from the bubble gum bursting? And does liking different things to eat put a crimp on friendship? Why even introduce such an obscure possibility?
The concept for the book is solid, the execution less so. Just because a book has fewer words doesn’t means it demands less attention. In fact, the fewer the words, the more each one matters. Some care should have been taken over this text to even out the lumps. A book on making friends is a delightful idea, even better to show the wide range of possibilities. So why does this one seem sloppy, less than carefully thought out?
And for a book that emphasizes diversity (all kinds of “hair, eyes, skin”), there’s the singular absence of any child in a wheelchair or with any other kind of physical difference beyond appearance. It would be churlish to insist on the broadest diversity if the book itself didn’t position itself that way with it’s strange page “. . . and from all faiths.” Faiths? Will a preschooler know what that means? The ending page is particularly clunky: “We are all worthy of friendship.” What does that mean? How is a young child supposed to understand worthiness? Surely a more child-friendly word could have been found, maybe even simply, “We all can be friends.”
Parents can simply ignore the text and make up their own, or let the child open the flaps on their own. The book will still be fun, thanks to the bright, appealing illustrations.