Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 12 Feb 2024

Will You Be My Friend? by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram

This board book will be a treat for lovers of the internationally acclaimed ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ by the same author and illustrators. The cover is instantly recognisable as it uses the soft colour palette and features the familiar character of Little Nutbrown Hare. He stands at the centre of the page, deep in conversation with a white Hare. Each corner shows the two leaping towards one another which my toddler friend (who can’t yet recognise words) immediately pointed at and exclaimed ‘Playing friends’.  Having successfully established the gist of the story, we turned the page with great anticipation.    

It seems that Little Nutbrown Hare is becoming quite independent from his busy parent and is keen to explore the world. I liked the way in which the illustrator firstly captures a pleading expression on his face as he clearly wants some attention. Then on the turn of the page we can recognise the concerned expression of the parent as she watches him hopping across the field. We wondered if he was going to remember her instruction’don’t go too far.’

He has a great time leaping about and is momentarily distracted by his reflection in a puddle and then his shadow on the ground. He is relishing his adventure but we were a bit worried that he was travelling a long way from home, despite being warned! Eventually he arrives at Cloudy Mountain and spots the white Hare looking straight at him. Once introductions have been made, Little Nutbrown and Tipps have tremendous fun play fighting, chasing, digging a hole and building a pile of leaves together.

We liked the very atmospheric double page spread that showed them playing hide-and-seek between the rocks in the pink heather against a blue sky. But the trouble with that popular game is that sometimes the finder doesn’t manage to guess the whereabouts of the one hiding, especially if they keep very still and quiet. There is moment of tension as Little Nutbrown waits in vain for Tipps and wonders if he will ever see her again. Despite the distance travelled, he returns home safely and tells Big Nutbrown that he has enjoyed his adventure. When Tipps turns up to say hello to them both, we were relieved at the happy ever after ending.

This is a simple story about learning to be confident, imaginative and careful when exploring. Most importantly, it focusses on the pleasure of finding a new friend and spending time getting to know one another.

Now available from Walker Books, you will be able to get a copy from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have one on their shelves.

Karen Argent

February 2024