This Book is My Best Friend by Robin Robinson. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023. 9781665906814
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Format: Hardcover picture book
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? Two kids browsing the shelves at the public library reach for the same book, Factory Friends, at the same time. Both insist they NEED the book, and as the story progresses, it is clear they do both have valid reasons for their claim that the book is their best friend. At first, it’s just about the plot; Sunny loves it because of the robot while Aarush’s affinity is for the mouse. They explore the library together, still bickering, trying to find each other a new best book friend on the shelves. In the process, readers will learn that the book provides Aarush with a quiet refuge from a hectic home life that includes squalling twin babies, and it comforts Sunny, whose mother is in the hospital. They are unsuccessful at finding new books for each other; Aarush tries to get Sunny to read War of the Worlds (“Those robots don’t look very friendly at all!”) while Sunny pushes a very scientific-looking book called Rodentia, Vol. 2. Eventually, they both realize their real favorite part of their mutual favorite book is how Robot and Mouse become best friends despite their differences, and maybe they can give it a try themselves.
This Book is My Best Friend can be appreciated at many different levels. Everyone will recognize the themes of empathy, bibliotherapy, and sharing. For primary grades, it is a wonderful tribute to the power of books and reading, as well as a reminder to be open to making friends with people who might be different from you. Older elementary students will find it reminiscent in style to many popular graphic novels, from the expressive faces of the characters and the limited color palette of muted neutrals, to the speech bubbles in two different fonts to make it easier to know who is speaking and the many humorous details in the library setting. Eagle-eyed readers of all ages will love recognizing favorite picture books on display, and spotting Sunny’s and Aarush’s family members in other parts of the library. Teachers will also find this story useful for lessons on inference; much of what we learn about the two kids and their families comes from the pictures rather than the words. Sunny is White, and Aarush presents as South Asian, and background characters in the library appear diverse. The kids’ names are never actually used in the book – they are given in the synopsis on the front flap – nor are gender pronouns.
Anything you did not like about the book? No
To whom would you recommend this book? Students in grade 1 and up will enjoy it as a nice friendship story with a comic book feel; their teachers and librarians will value it for the strong emphasis on books as bridge-builders, and it would certainly be a valuable component of SEL lessons on conflict resolution and dealing with stress.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts
Date of review: January 20, 2023
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