There's nothing like a buddy. A sidekick, a pal, a bff, a chum, a soul mate, a foil, a fellow traveler: they're the best, and the feeling is mutual.
Kids understand this early on. As soon as children begin to discover their peers, parents quickly lose their place as preferred playmate. And that is when the fun, and sometimes the frustration, begins. Whether it be a sibling, a new friend at the park or a classmate at school, kids quickly discover that not all playmates are created equal. Some are in sync, with the same interests and abilities. Others pull them into new games and activities. All these friends teach our little ones how to adapt to new people, figure out what makes them tick, and how to connect.
Perhaps that is why kids have such a fondness for stories about odd friendship pairings: two characters who are thrown together, who can't get along without each other, and yet who could not be more different from one another. These unlikely pairs of exasperate yet adore each other - something kids can relate to and learn from.
So here they are: our favorite oddball, story time pairs. We can only hope that our kids create bonds like these with their own siblings and friends, however quirky and unlikely they may be.
Elephant and Piggie series. Mo Willems strikes just the right note with this wildly popular series. As in the best of buddy stories, one is staid and serious (Elephant) and the other silly and adventurous (Piggie). Told cartoon-style, the stories are truly funny and captivating to early readers and younger children alike.
Bert and Ernie. These guys are the classic odd-ball pair, the Oscar and Felix of the preschool set. In case your kids don't watch as much Sesame Street as we did back in the day (the day when that was the only thing on TV, that is), consider this DVD of Ernie and Bert's greatest hits.
Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock. Sometimes the oddest pairing of all is between siblings. How did the sweet, responsible and orderly Adele ever end up with as scatterbrained a brother as Simon? He is her burden to bear, but for readers these two are a source of amusement and intrigue as Simon loses all of his belongings hither and thither through the streets of Paris in the first book, and across America in the second. Barbara McClintock outdoes herself here with amazing illustrations.
George and Martha by James Marshall. No list of books about friendship is complete without these dear hippopotami. George is a lovable goof, Martha a strong-minded, warm-hearted lass. They test their friendship in all sorts of ways (how much pea soup can a friend eat?), and always come out on top.
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. One is grumpy, fretful and literal; the other lively, cheerful and imaginative. With endless patience for each others' foibles and enthusiasms, these two can make a gentle adventure out of any situation. What they see in each other, we don't quite know, but together, improbably, they make a perfect pair.
The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume. Here's another pair of siblings who can't stand each other, yet can't stand to be apart for long. Big sis has all the answers, except when she can't work up the courage to learn to ride a bike. Little bro is nothing but a Pain, except when he does hilarious stuff like getting a pussy willow stuck up his nose. What else are little brothers for if not a good laugh? An excellent portrait of sibling rivalry, resentment and most of all love.
Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows. For older kids (6-9 years) who enjoy the theme, there's no better story of unlikely friendship than Ivy and Bean. The minute these two girls saw each other, they knew they would never be friends. What were their mothers thinking when they set them up to play? And yet, when a crisis throws them together, who knows—they might end up best friends after all.
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