I first stumbled upon this very fine creator of young children’s books with For Faithful Friends, so taken with the book I decided to explore deeper. It transpires that Marilyn has a number of children’s books in print, The Best Of Best Friends is actually her second one of the series.

As a reviewer I have to admit that I do love children’s books. The dynamics are completely different from the adult world. Occasionally people will ask me what makes for a great children’s book. I have some theories, but they are no more than that. The adverts on the TV for a well known fast food chain talk about their secret recipe of 10 herbs and spices. In many ways that sums up the recipe for a great children’s book.

To be successful you need several elements, text that meets the age group you are aiming at, it is OK to challenge the vocabulary a little, but the new words have to be used in a context that the young reader will understand. The illustrations need to be in harmony with the story. What I mean by that is that they match the text from an age perspective. An illustration aimed at a 10 year old will be lost on a 4 year old, and vice versa.

Marilyn Randall is one of the very few authors that not only writes the story, but also illustrates them herself. This ability astounds me, few people can do this well. She has the ability to marry the text and illustrations to match the age group (pre reader – 7) with a wicked ability.

Another feature of a successful young child’s book is to include an educational component. The author is faced with a juggling act, the parents buying the book want the learning component, the child is looking for the entertainment value. This is a High Wire act for the writer. Marilyn Randall again comes through with flying colors.

As in For Faithful Friends the main characters are from the animal world, this time we have rather sedentary and bored pig, and a hyperactive bunny. They have little in common, yet become firm friends, each learning from the other. As in real life, people have different strengths, many friendships are at first glance strange, yet when you look into it a little more, you can see that 1 + 1 equals something larger than 2.

I think the reason that I was attracted to this book was actually the dedication page, a place most people gloss over. This made me sit down and think:

This book is dedicated to children everywhere. As you travel through this life, may you find your “Best of Best Friend” and keep them forever and remember always that no matter how tough things get, we must never, ever give up!

Friendship is a powerful message, and one that you cannot start teaching too early. The delightful characters in this book have very different personalities, very different strengths and weaknesses, this is just like the real world.

I could see this book being used a true learning tool by parents. I also like the way that Marilyn Randall encapsulates the segments of the story. A parent could read a page and discuss the story before moving on to the next adventure. The text itself is written in a four line rhyming poetic style. Simple concepts for young minds.

You can pick up your copy of The Best Of Best Friends by clicking on the Amazon link above.

Simon Barrett

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