The Friendship Bench ISBN: 9780192777331
Published by Oxford University Press, 2022
This lovely, simple story about Tilly and her Mum and their dog Shadow, who have moved house to live by the sea, shows us what happens when a lonely child who has only her dog to play with finds a friend at school. The illustrations, charming and full of the kind of detail that seems to set the story on an island somewhere in the north, make the most of the scenery and the fact that the children seem to wear Fair Isle sweaters and warm caps with bobbles on top continue that theme. Shadow cannot come to school with Tilly, and she finds herself without a friend. The kindly teacher, an older man wearing the uniform pullover and bobble hat and looking like one's favourite granddad, suggests she might try the friendship bench. But when Tilly goes there, she finds someone already in residence, a small boy. Explaining this to the teacher, he suggests she tries again. This time she sits down too, but neither of them knows what to say. Tilly suddenly announces that the bench isn't 'working'. Maybe it's broken', says the little boy and together they begin to fix it with all sorts of twigs and shells and things they have found while chatting happily. Tilly discovers that Flint has a dog too and that he likes ice cream and beaches, and that afternoon she tells her mum all about the 'fixed bench' and that she has found a friend. This is a deeply moving book, both because of the sensitive pictures and the possible underlying reasons why Tilly and her mum have come to this remote place to live. There are things that don't need to be said, but we know they are there, and that this is a new start in a friendly, supportive place. Excellent.