We all crave love and acceptance from our families first and foremost and later from our friends. This point is clearly made in Nikki Grimes' poem "Outside" from her book
Something On My Mind
. It depicts a young girl standing outside a fence wanting to play with the other children, to belong, to be friends. " I want a friend to whisper to,/ to keep my secrets/ and to tell me hers./ I want to be/ Inside."9
We all want and need friends to play with, laugh with, share secrets with, or even to share a popsicle with. Nikki Grimes' poems, "The Secret" and "Summertime Sharing" from
Meet Danitra Brown
, explore friendships. "The Secret" illustrates the importance of forgiveness. It begins when a secret is revealed and ends,
"What kind of friend are you?" she yelled before she stomped away./ She wouldn't hardly say a word to me the whole next day. She finally forgave me, but not until I swore to never, ever give away a secret anymore." 10
"Summertime Sharing" depicts the value of sharing in a friendship. Danitra would like something from the ice cream man but unfortunately she has no money, so her friend, the speaker of the poem, buys an ice and shares it with Danitra.
"Danitra breaks the Popsicle in two and gives me half.
The purple ice trickles down her chin. I start to laugh.
Her teeth flash in one humongous grin,
telling me she's glad that I'm her friend without even saying a word." 11
This will be followed by two books that further examine the ups and downs of friendships among peers:
My Best Friend
by P. Mignon Hinds and
Matthew and Tilly
by Rebecca C. Jones. In
My Best Friend
a young boy questions his friendship with his friend, Omar when his favorite model airplane gets broken. Suddenly he's wondering how they ever became friends in the first place. Whenever they race, Omar always says he came in first even though he didn't. At his birthday party, Omar took the biggest piece of cake and he always takes the seat by the window on the bus. Then he recalls his first day in a new school when his pencil broke and Omar gave him one of his. He remembers other positive things Omar has done for him and special times they've shared. He realizes that the good times outweigh the bad and decides to continue being best friends with Omar after all.
Matthew and Tilly
is the story of an interracial friendship between a young boy, Matthew, and a young girl, Tilly, who experience some ups and downs of their own. Omar and his best friend's problems started with a broken possession-a model airplane. Similarly, Matthew and Tilly's problems begin when Tilly's crayon is broken. Suddenly, they're not sure if they even want to be friends anymore. They decide to go their separate ways but soon realize that doing the things they would've normally done together alone is no fun at all. The story ends happily when the two apologize and go out to play together.
Black Like Kyra, White Like Me
by Judith Vigna is the story of an interracial friendship between a young white girl, Christa, and her African-American friend, Kyra, whose friendship is tested when Kyra and her family move into Christa's all-white neighborhood. Christa can't understand how the people in her neighborhood can dislike Kyra and her family just because of their skin color. Even when she begins to feel the effect of their dislike, she sticks by Kyra.
by Ezra Jack Keats is the story of Sam and his little brother, Ben, who roam through their apartment building one rainy day in search of a harmonica player. They soon find that the man in Apt. 3 is the mystery musician. He invites them in and the two soon realize that the man is blind. The boys spend the afternoon enjoying the beautiful music flowing from his harmonica.
by Patricia Polacco and
by Eve Bunting both explore special friendships between young children and an adult as well as interracial and inter-religious relationships.
is the story of Patricia, a young Jewish girl, and her neighbors, Winston and Stewart, and their grandmother, Miss Eula, who are African-American. Patricia often accompanies them to church on Sundays and then joins them for fried chicken afterwards. Miss Eula nicknames these special Sundays "Chicken Sunday".
tells the story of another interracial friendship between a young boy, Daniel and a Korean woman, Mrs. Kim. Their special friendship begins in the wake of a tragic event. People are rioting in the street below Daniel's window, setting fires and stealing everything they can. Daniel doesn't understand why people would do such a thing to other people and then he thinks about how his cat and Mrs. Kim's cat fight with each other. Eventually, a fire breaks out in his building and he and his mom must leave for a shelter. Daniel's distraught when he discovers that his cat, Jasmine, is missing. He meets up with Mrs. Kim at the shelter where he learns that her cat has disappeared as well. The two bond as they pray for their cat's safe return. A fire fighter appears carrying a cat in each arm and says that he found them hiding together holding paws! Daniel's mother remarks at how strange that is considering the two don't like each other. Daniel says that maybe it's because they didn't know each other.
I will conclude this section with a poem from Langston Hughes'
The Dream Keeper and Other Poems
entitled "Poem". "The poem ends,/ Soft as it began—/ I loved my friend." 12
Possible activities for this section include webbing the characteristics of friendships, daily "Put-Ups" in which students select a different classmate's name each day and give them a "Put-Up", U.I. Company Pen Pals as well as pen pals from a neighboring school, and writing original stories and poems about friendship or a specific friend. The following Project Charlie lessons from the Primary Relationship section can be used in conjunction with this section: #3, 4, 5, 6.