The Cool Bean

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
The Cool Bean Book Poster Image
Sweet, whimsical tale encourages empathy and kindness.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Story encourages thinking about relationships, change, and growth.

Positive Messages

Great messages about compassion, kindness, and friendships: how they will change and how you don't have to be someone you're not to have good friends. Also stresses that being cool is about confidence in who you are, as well as using your "cool" to help, not hurt, others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The narrator-bean envies former friends the cool beans, and feels like an uncool "has-bean," but is touched by the thoughtfulness they show on a bad day. He learns that being helpful, kind, and compassionate is actually what makes a (cool) good friend. The cool beans emerge as empathetic role models when they use their cool for good and not to exclude or hurt. Beans are different colors, genders, shapes, and sizes.

Violence & Scariness

Mild meanness: being picked last, laughed at, etc.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Cool Bean is by Jory John and illustrator Pete Oswald, the duo behind the best-selling picture books The Bad Seed and The Good Egg. This funny, whimsical story emphasizes positive messages about compassion, empathy, and friendship in a little-kid-friendly way. The narrator is an uncool bean, who misses his friends from the olden days (last year), who have become the cool beans, with awesome shades, fly clothes, and sweet swaggers. The cool beans don't pay their old friend much attention, until a really bad day, when they come to his aid. The way the cool beans emerge as role models offers a great opportunity to talk to young readers about the importance of being kind and helping, not hurting or excluding, others.

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What's the story?

The story begins as an adorably nerdy chickpea introduces "the cool beans" -- friends with whom he's grown apart over the last year. He misses them, but he doesn't know what to do. He tries to be cool like them with sunglasses (too big), a slick hairdo (too slick), and adopting a swagger (that makes him trip). He still gets picked last, snorts when he laughs, and runs into things -- he declares himself an uncool "has-bean." He thinks this is just the way it's going to be until his very bad day is made pretty darn good by the empathy shown to him by his old friends. The "uncool" bean learns the secret to being cool -- and to being a good friend.  

Is it any good?

This witty story, full of wonderful messages about the importance of friendship, compassion, and helping others, is a joy to read with little ones. Preschoolers will delight in The Cool Bean's hilarious pictures, older kids will relate to the story, and parents will appreciate author Jory John's lighthearted approach to teaching values and giggle at Pete Oswald's bean puns. The uncluttered spreads featuring sunglass-clad, guitar-playing, superhero-drawing beans reveal Oswald's skill at bringing out tons of personality in his bland subjects.

 One small critique is that there's no apology from the cool beans for leaving out their old friend or reason given for why the cool beans choose that particular day to be kind and inclusive; some kids may wonder about this. Still, readers of all ages will adore this fun, heartfelt book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the main character feels left out in The Cool Bean. Have you ever felt that way? How did you handle it? 

  • Why does the bean almost give up on ever being friends with the cool beans again? Have you ever felt really sad or like there was no hope that something would change for the better? What helps you feel better?

  • Talk about the bean's bad day. How does the kindness of the cool beans make him feel? What does he learn about what makes you cool?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and tales of kindness and empathy

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