Real Friends by Shannon Hale is a memoir about the author’s own experience navigating friendships in elementary school. This graphic novel perfectly captures the highs and lows many young girls experience in their upper elementary years in school, trying to find real friends who accept us for who they are. It’s a delicate balance of understanding and acceptance along with being true to yourself.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned about friendship in middle and high school was that just because someone was your best friend at one point in time does not mean they will be your best friend forever. That being said, just because someone is no longer your best friend, does not diminish the important role they played in your life and vice versa at that time.
As an elementary school teacher working with 4th graders, I wish this was a lesson I could just transfer to my students, particularly the girls, through osmosis. I watch it happen each year and know that other than encouraging students to be kind to one another, even as their friendships drift apart at times, it’s something they have to experience for themselves.
One powerful characteristic of the protagonist Shannon is her willingness to branch out and make new friends even though time and time again it does not work out well. She keeps putting herself out there and learns to stand up for herself and what she believes will be fair.
Shannon learns that friends can act one way one-on-one and then treat you differently when they are around other peers, particularly when popularity and clique behaviors are at play.
Real Friends has a powerful message. It teaches about hope and resilience during a difficult time in the transition from childhood to adolescence. It does not sugar coat the complex emotions kids feel and how important friendships become to them in their everyday lives.
I would recommend this books for students in grades 4-7. Real Friends is a level S text. Click here to purchase a copy of Real Friends by Shannon Hale (affiliate link).