There are many picture books about making friends and playing with friends. But few address the challenges involved in this process as beautifully as A Friend for Henry written by Jenn Bailey and illustrated by Mika Song. Henry is on the autism spectrum and he navigates the world of his classroom differently than his peers. He likes structure and order and wants a friend who feels the same. Sometimes a friend like that is hard to find when you are very young.
Henry tries to make friends with several students. They don’t think about rules and expectations in the same way as Henry and don’t really understand how he thinks and plays. Bailey does an exquisite job of explaining how Henry feels during these interactions, using both internal and spoken dialogue. The expressiveness of Song’s illustrations also help to articulate the intensity of emotions that are common in young people. It seems like Henry might stop trying to find a friend and play alone. Then he meets someone who can be calm and follow the rules, but also doesn’t do things in exactly the same way as Henry. She offers the perfect amount of security and flexibility.
A Friend for Henry works on multiple levels. It helps other students to understand what students on the autism spectrum might be feeling. It also lets readers know that it is okay if you don’t want to play in the same way as other kids. You can be friendly without being friends. You can also enjoy some activities that you share with your friends and some that are individual to you. A beautiful picture book on every level!
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Identity 4: I can feel good about myself without being mean or making other people feel bad.
Diversity 6: I like being around people who are like me and different from me, and I can be friendly to everyone.
Diversity 9: I know everyone has feelings, and I want to get along with people who are similar to and different from me.
RL.2- With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.
RL.3- With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.