Rodman, Mary Ann. My Best Friend. Illus. E. B. Lewis. New York: Viking-Penguin, 2005. Print.
Six year-old Lily longs to be best friends at the swimming pool with Tamika, who is seven and already has a best friend. Lily tries to get Tamika’s attention by getting a new swimming suit, learning how to dive and sharing her pool toys and popsicles, but Tamika and her friend Shanice just tease her. One day when Shanice isn’t there, Lily and Tamika have a great time together, but the fun is only temporary because Tamika goes back to ignoring her the next time they meet. Lily later realizes that maybe she had someone who wanted to be her friend all along and decides to just enjoy playing with Keesha (who is also six) instead.
Present-day summertime at the community swimming pool.
Point of View:
1st person (Lily)
Friendship, making impressions, appreciating what you have
The story is realistic and universal. The voice really seems to reflect the thoughts and speech of a six year-old. Although the story features six and seven year-olds, most children can identify with Lily’s frustration and attempts at friendship, no matter their age. The watercolor pictures are beautifully done and true to life. The round bellies of the little girls and the shapes of the parents do not promote a distorted body image. The text and artwork complement each other nicely, though the most of the storyline flows through the text.
All of the main characters in the pictures are black children, with a variety of skin tones, at playgroup with their parents. Some of the names also seem to be authentic to contemporary African-American culture, which could possibly “date” or stereotype the book years down the road. The storyline, however, is not necessarily unique to a black child’s experience because it could happen to any child of any race.
The book jacket indicates that it is intended for children ages 4 and up. Since the oldest children are going into second grade, I suspect that third grade is probably the upper limit. However, any elementary-aged child who is struggling with making friends might make a connection with this book. Because of the realization that Lily makes at the end of the story, parents of young children might be able to use this book as a way to start a conversation about friendship and peer relations.
I am in awe of this book because of the extraordinary watercolors. I found myself paging forward and back, examining and reexamining the detail of the images. I loved the beauty of the African-American children in the story—it’s so nice to see more and more examples of quality picture books featuring children of color with storylines that can resonate with any child. I also smiled several times because of Lily’s extreme efforts to make an impression on someone she thought was cool. How interesting that many of us continue to do this, even through adulthood!