Don't Need Friends

Book review by
Linda Rahm-Crites, Common Sense Media
Don't Need Friends Book Poster Image
Undeniably sweet tale avoids being saccharine.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the story line is greatly enhanced by the illustrations, which sympathetically portray the lives and looks of the junkyard creatures without sentimentalizing them.

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What's the story?

Rat lives in a friendly community of junkyard-dwelling animals, but when his best friend leaves, he becomes bitter and aloof. He meets his match in a new arrival, Dog, who is even more antisocial than he is. Exploring ideas of community and friendship, the story shows how individuals can deal with hurt and can bravely form new attachments.

 

Is it any good?

Although undeniably sweet, the story avoids being saccharine. Much of the credit goes to the illustrations, which effectively convey the atmosphere of the junkyard and the personalities of the characters. 

Author Carolyn Crimi looks at one of the ways in which we try to protect ourselves from hurt and disappointment. Children can readily see that Rat's attempt to deny his need for friends is self-defeating, but they also sympathize with his bluff and are touched when Rat and Dog gain enough trust to reveal (rather backhandedly) the kind hearts beneath their rough exteriors.

The scruffy denizens of the junkyard are a refreshing change from the many cuddly, bucolic animals usually residing in children's literature. Rats, possums, pigeons, and ownerless dogs: They live on the edges of "official" society in their own messy but companionable world, preoccupied with food and warmth -- both physical and emotional. Rather like children, in fact.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about friendship and why we need friends. Why does Rat deny his need for friends at first? What convinces him that he really does need friends in his life?

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