We're Going to Be Friends

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
We're Going to Be Friends Book Poster Image
Retro art, collage bring fond school-day lyrics to life.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Shows elements of the school day and the kinds of things students learn, like the alphabet and how to spell, and things students do, like show and tell and playing ball at playtime.  

Positive Messages

School is fun -- both learning and playtime. It's also fun to walk to school with a friend and explore things along the way, like bugs on the ground. It's nice to make a new friend and have more fun together the next day. When you're having fun, "we don't notice any time pass ... we don't notice anything."

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that We're Going to Be Friends, by Jack White, lead singer of multi-platinum-selling band The White Stripes, is a picture book adaptation of his song of the same name. The lyrics reflect a nostalgic view of childhood school days, as does the retro mixed-media art. A boy and girl of color happily mix with black-and-white photos and fanciful illustrations, such as a bird teacher and guitar-playing bug, as the lyrics speak of "numbers, letters, learn to spell / nouns, and books, and show and tell." After a fun day at school, the kids walk home hand in hand and the lyric concludes, "I can tell we're gonna be friends." The book includes a four-song download at the back. 

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What's the story?

WE'RE GOING TO BE FRIENDS takes Jack White's song lyrics about the childhood pleasures of school, play, and friendship and sets them amid black-and-white photos, retro illustrations of a boy and a girl, and fantasy drawings of animals, birds, and bugs to create a simple story of a day at school. A young boy meets Suzy Lee and asks her to "walk with me," then they head to school "all by ourselves," sit "side by side" in class, and eventually walk home together, hand in hand, looking forward to more shared fun the next day: "when I wake tomorrow I'll bet / that you and I will walk together again."

Is it any good?

This offbeat and upbeat story of a day at school and making a new friend offers a cheery, nostalgic view of free-range childhood and a fun day in the classroom and at recess. We're Going to Be Friends is simple enough for kindergartners but should also please grown-ups who recall a more carefree time -- and for fans of the White Stripes who know the song the book is based on. The book's publication comes just a few months after the band's 20th anniversary. The design includes fanciful drawings and clever collage work by veteran animator Elinor Blake, aka singer-songwriter April March.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how school looks in We're Going to Be Friends. How different does it look from your school? 

  • Why do you think the artist chose an old-fashioned look for the story? Why do you think she added in illustrations of animals playing and teaching the kids?

  • Try making a picture that mixes photos from magazines and your own drawings. Can you tell a school or friendship story that way? 

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