A Mighty Girl's top picks of books about friendships between girls and boys.
Books about girls who are best friends forever are easy to find — but what about girls who are friends with boys? Mixed-gender friendships are all too rare in children's literature, and often those that do exist develop into a romance story, creating the impression that romance is the inevitable conclusion of all relationships between a girl and a boy. But in an ideal world, people are friends with anyone who shares their interests, and gender isn't a factor! Providing a model for these girl-boy friendships in children's books is a great way to show that friendships form with many different people — and reading about these friendships encourages kids to build and maintain mixed-gender friendships as they grow.
In this blog post, we're featuring a variety of stories about girl-boy friendships. These girls and boys adventure together, care for one another, and provide the support that everyone needs to get through tough times. It's the perfect way to encourage young readers to focus not on the gender of a friend, but on the quality of the friendship.
Books About Girl and Boy Friends
"To grow a friend, first plant a seed in good soil," this book begins, as a girl and a boy watch a bird drop a seed into their bucket. Just like the flower, a friendship needs tending. Sometimes your friend will droop and need a little extra care, and sometimes a pest will appear — like when you can't agree! But as you learn the skills it takes to make one friendship flourish, you can start other friendships growing too... creating a beautiful garden of people you love! This charming, colorful board book is a tribute to the joys of a growing friendship.
Lulu and Sam are best friends, but that doesn’t mean deciding what to play is easy. Sam suggests Diggers; Lulu counters with Monkeys. Sam wants to play under the castle; Lulu wants to climb to the top. But once Sam creates a new alter ego, Bumblebee Boy, inspired by Lulu's character Ladybug Girl, they finally find something they can both agree to play! This charming story is terrific for showing the give and take that comes with a great friendship.
Farfallina the caterpillar and Marcel the gosling do everything together until the day that Farfallina declares that she needs to rest on a tree branch for a while. Loyal Marcel sits to wait for her, and as Farfallina sleeps in her cocoon, growing new wings, Marcel sheds his baby fuzz and grows his adult feathers. When the day finally comes that the friends reunite, they don’t recognize one another’s outsides... but inside, they’re still the best of friends. This touching books shows that friendships can survive even big changes!
Maia and Nico are best friends, so when they learn that Nico's family has to move far away for a while, Maia is devastated. Over time, other joys enter her life, including a kitten, a new friend, and a passion for the piano. Maia and Nico talk on the phone, but as the time for his return draws closer, she starts to worry: can Nico still fit into her life, or has she filled the space he left in a way that won't allow him in? Fortunately, Maia discovers that there's still room for Nico — and that she can survive big changes in her life. This touching picture book about loss and recovery is quiet but powerful.
Josie and Richard compete at everything, and Josie always wins... except when it comes to losing teeth. When she finally feels one of her teeth start to wiggle, she's excited to finally catch up, but when she literally loses her tooth, Josie wonders if the Tooth Fairy will come after all. Richard offers her his beloved shark tooth as a substitute, but Josie doesn't think the Tooth Fairy will bite. To her delight, the Tooth Fairy understands... and provides a gift to remind her that her friendship is more valuable than any coin! This charming and relatable story will speak to any child waiting for that first wiggle.
Little piglet Alice has almost everything she would want living with her grandmother — except a sister, a brother, or ANYONE her size. So she writes a note and tucks it into a bottle, and throws it into the Seine river, where it finds it way to François the dog at a faraway lighthouse. Soon, the pair are writing back and forth daily... until Alice's grandmother dies, and Alice is too consumed by grief to write. François worries about her silence, but Alice's new guardian, the kindly Miss Clément, knows just what Alice needs — and soon the friends get to meet in person. Gentle and emotionally complex, this book explores grief, love, and the power of friendship to get us through the hardest of times.
A lonely girl wants to escape the solitude of her bedroom, but when she draws a magic door on her wall with a red crayon, she gets more than she bargained for! Soon, she’s drawn a boat, a balloon, and a magic carpet which lead to an incredible new world. After she bravely rescues a beautiful purple bird from captivity, she herself is captured. But the grateful bird helps her to escape and together they fly to safety and to what she wants most of all: friendship... with the owner of a purple crayon! This Caldecott Honor wordless picture book begins a friendship that continues in its sequels, Quest and Return; you can also get a box set of the whole trilogy.
When Sakura's dad gets a new job in America, Sakura struggles with culture clash and learning a new language, but most of all she misses her beloved grandmother, Obaachan, who used to picnic with her under the cherry trees. Slowly, though, she makes a new friend, Luke, and starts to settle in... until Obaachan gets sick, and the family has to fly back to Japan to say goodbye. When she gets home, Luke tells her she'll get a surprise in the spring — and Sakura is delighted to see the cherry trees that bloom in her own neighborhood, reminding her of warm memories of the past and giving her the chance to make new ones with her friend by her side.
Curmudgeonly Renata Wolfman (AKA Wolfie) prefers to spend time alone: after all, friends just take up time she could use for facts and reading! But when she meets Livingston Flott (Fly), the eccentric boy next door, she soon finds herself with a companion in her cardboard box submarine. Wolfie is relieved when she has to go on a solo mission to find a key part for their game, but to her surprise, she finds that the time alone isn't quite as appealing as it was before. Maybe it's not so bad having Fly around... This charming and funny early chapter book celebrates an unexpected friendship and the pleasure to be found when you are open to new experiences.
Stubborn Lulu from Lulu and the Brontosaurus is back, this time looking to make a little extra cash by walking the neighborhood dogs. But Brutus, Cordelia, and Pookie don’t make the walk a very easy one! Lulu’s do-gooding neighbor Fleischman offers some help, which she reluctantly accepts — but can two totally opposite personalities, and three not-very-cooperative dogs, ever work together? With a sarcastic, witty tone, Viorst’s story captures how these undisciplined animals help create an unusual but satisfying bond between two unlikely friends.
After Mary Lennox is orphaned by a cholera epidemic, she goes to live on her uncle's Yorkshire estate. Lonely and sad, she's left alone to explore, eventually meeting the high-spirited Dickon and her sickly and imperious cousin Colin. Then she discovers the greatest treasure of all: a locked, walled garden, overgrown and desperately in need of tending. And as she, Dickon, and Colin start caring for the garden, a remarkable thing happens: Mary and Colin start to bloom too. This classic novel, full of beauty and emotion, is sure to inspire young readers today as it has inspired generations of others.
When her best friend Joseph is abducted by aliens, Zita leaps after him and finds herself on a strange world, far from home. But can a girl from Earth step in to save this new world — and her friend? As Zita's adventures continue in Legends of Zita the Spacegirl and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl, she'll rely on new friends to help her rescue Joseph... and on Joseph to help her get both of them back home. Full of action, adventure, humor, and heart, this graphic novel trilogy is sure to be a favorite.
Five years after her first visit to her grandmother's house in Australia, Livy is back — and feels like there's something important she's forgotten about her last trip. What she forgot was Bob: a small, mysterious being dressed in a chicken suit. She promised to help find his family… and Bob remembers her promise, even if he doesn't remember his way home. Together, Livy and Bob will have to puzzle out the clues to where Bob comes from — and along the way, they'll learn truths about both love and the joys of childhood. Told in alternating chapters in Livy and Bob's perspectives, this irresistible story explores friendship, belonging, and the magic of storytelling.
Peter Gronkowski has his sights set on being a professional businessman, so he starts a new business with the help of an unpaid "intern," aspiring writer Rachel Chambers. But while Rachel may seem quiet, she's also resourceful and driven — and when Peter's overbearing behavior proves too much, she starts her own competing empire! As they each jockey to win their rivalry with slander, espionage, and sabotage, they finally realize that money and success aren't as important as their friendship. Smart and funny, with alternating chapters telling both kids' perspectives, readers will love watching Rachel and Peter find a partnership that proves that two determined heads are better than one.
Emily's literary idol, Garrison Griswold, lives in San Francisco — something that makes her move to the city a lot more exciting! He's the creator of Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden in cities around the country. But when she arrives, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and no one knows anything about the epic new game he was just about to launch. When Emily and her friend James discover a strange book, they find themselves rushing from clue to clue, trying to find the secret — before whoever attacked Griswold comes after them too. This fun adventure, sprinkled with mysteries and ciphers, is sure to appeal to mystery fans. Emily and James' adventures continue in The Unbreakable Code and The Alcatraz Escape.
The Penderwick sisters are spending the summer on a sprawling estate, full of interesting places to explore — and a fascinating new companion: Jeffrey, the son of the estate’s owner, Mrs. Tifton. Who better to accompany them on their adventures? Mrs. Tifton doesn't approve, though, and Jeffrey's on the verge of being sent to a military school. Will the sisters' adventures save their new friend from such a terrible fate, or just get him deeper into hot water? It will be a summer of full of trouble, laughter, mischief, and confusion — definitely one that no one on the estate will ever forget! Fans of the Penderwicks will also love this paperback box set featuring the four books in the series, and the sweet series finale, The Penderwicks At Last.
Hazel and Jack were always best friends, and their vivid imaginations made them a perfect pair — something that was particularly valuable for Hazel, who is struggling with her adoptive parents' divorce and unanswered questions about her birth family. Then Jack got a sliver from a magic mirror in his eye, and suddenly he became cold and heartless. But Hazel isn't willing to give up on him, not even when a mysterious woman made of ice takes him away. She's determined to brave all the dangers of this strange, frozen world to bring Jack home. But one of the things about growing up is recognizing that you can't live in a world of fantasy... and that relationships may change as you grow. This complex story that draws from "The Snow Queen" and other folk and fairy tales is bittersweet and powerful.
One good friendship can help a Mighty Girl blossom. It's 1952, and Azalea is dreading a summer helping her Grandmother Clark — she struggles to make friends at the best of times, and now she'll spend months in an unfamiliar town. When Billy Wong, a local Chinese-American boy, shows up to help in her grandmother's garden, Azalea is startled that her grandmother encourages her to talk to him. Not only does it turn out that Billy is easy to befriend — a surprise given their different backgrounds and experiences — but Azalea also discovers that making friends with others isn't as hard as she thought it was after all.
Amanda is incredibly excited for her eleventh birthday — until everything goes wrong, including a fight with her best friend, Leo. She's glad when the day is over... but wakes up to discover that she's starting it all over again. The only other person aware of the time loop is Leo, and soon the pair have patched their friendship and start exploring the possibilities of unlimited do-overs. It turns out that seemingly small decisions have big and often unforeseen consequences — but can they find the one that gets them out of the loop and back to real life? Kids will love seeing Amanda and Leo rebuild their friendship and discover that what they do really does make a difference. Fans can return to author Wendy Mass' unique world in the second book in the series, Finally.
Princess Violet knows she doesn't fit her country's ideal of a princess: she's too plain, too bold, and far too clever for her own good. The only person who makes her feel at ease is Demetrius, the stable boy and her best friend. But when Violet stumbles across a forbidden book and accidentally releases an ancient evil back into the world, her insecurities might cut her off from the people who care most about her — including her friend. With Demetrius' help, though — plus an ancient dragon and a remarkable talent for storytelling — Violet might just be able to save her kingdom and find her place. This remarkable fantasy novel celebrates the power of story...and the power of a friendship to help you find your way.
Ronia is the celebrated daughter of Matt, leader of a ferocious band of robbers, but she’s happiest alone, exploring the deep forest. There, she meets Birk, the son of Matt’s greatest rival, Borka, and the two become unexpected friends. But when new hostilities break out between two bands, Ronia is faced with conflicting loyalties when her father wants to use Birk as a hostage to force his rival’s surrender. Can Ronia and Birk find a way to reconcile the two robber barons, or will they have to choose between friendship and family? This book by Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking, is full of adventure and suspense.
Liesl is confined to the attic by a cruel stepmother, and she's deeply lonely after the death of her beloved father — until the day that Po, a child-sized ghost, appears in her bedroom. Not only do they form a friendship, but Po gives Liesl hope that she might be able to take her father's ashes home so she can finally say goodbye. The same night, a mistreated alchemist's assistant, Will, accidentally mixes up two boxes, one unimportant and one containing a powerful magic. The mistake draws all three together on an adventure full of laughter, love, and healing. Alternating between quiet, philosophical moments and hilarious hijinks, this story celebrates how friendship can help you overcome the most difficult moments in life.
Abby Carson doesn't like doing schoolwork... but letting it slide has put her at risk of repeating sixth grade. To earn extra credit, she writes to a school in Afghanistan for a pen pal, where the elders decree that Sadeed should write the letters dictated by his sister, Amira — Sadeed is best at writing in English, but in their village, it's improper for a boy and a girl to correspond. But Sadeed can't resist letting Abby know who's really doing the writing, and soon they've formed a friendship. As the pair share details about their very different lives and cultures, Sadeed urges Abby to devote the same energy to her schoolwork that she does to her adventures, and teaches her to see the world through different eyes. This heartfelt story about a relationship that forms across distance and cultural divides shows the power of a friendship to change lives.
Despite — or perhaps because of — their place as town misfits, Tru and Nelle are best friends who love playing detective — which turns out to be honing their observation skills for their future careers as authors! In this fictionalized account of Truman Capote and Harper Lee's childhood friendship, their penchant for sleuthing turns into a bit of a tangle when their investigation into a drugstore theft results in some real-life trouble for the daring pair. Humorous and heartfelt, this novel celebrates the joy of finding the person whose strengths and weaknesses are perfectly offset by your own.
Emma has been lonely homeschooling without her brother who is now attending high school, so she's decides to start 5th grade at Lakeview Elementary. The day before she starts, she helps her game warden father rescue a lost bunny trapped in a fence. Emma names the bunny Lapi, after her beloved French Canadian grandfather's stories, and Lapi helps her find common ground with her first friend, a misfit named Jack who speaks out of turn and adores animals. And when Emma wonders if her friendship with Jack could hold her back at school, Lapi will also remind her that staying true to yourself is the most important thing of all. This heartfelt novel encourages young readers to see the value in understanding other peoples' perspectives — especially when they're different.
It's the Age of Invention, and 12-year-old Molly knows that her mother Cass' flying machine deserves to be exhibited at the 1883 World's Fair, but it's monopolized by members of the all-male Inventor's Guild. When she and Cass sneak into the Guild's headquarters to get Cass' display a space, they stumble across a plot involving a secret army of death machines controlled by Alexander Graham Bell — or is it Thomas Edison? With the help of Bell's assistant, Chinese immigrant Emmett Lee, and some other other little-known inventors, Molly and Cass will (hopefully) save the day! Full of rollicking adventure, fascinating historical figures, and observations about what we lose through prejudice, this series opener is sure to delight middle-grade readers.
Sixth-grader April feels out of place now that her former best friend has a cooler clique. To avoid her classmates, she volunteers as a "buddy bench monitor" for the fourth graders, partnered with Veena, a new student from India. She wonders about a boy named Joey who only seems to scratch in the dirt, but her concerns are dismissed by both her mother and the school counselor. April's not deterred, though, and when she talks to Joey about what he's doing, she discovers that he's creating detailed, elaborate "land art" made from found materials. The conversation leads to an unexpected friendship — and becomes an opening for other outcast kids to make their voices heard, too. Told in a unique combination of April's voice and Joey's pictures, this powerful novel celebrates friendship and understanding other points of view.
Bea is going through a lot at the beginning of middle school: her best friend is drifting away, and she's about to become a big sister for the first time. The Taiwanese-American would-be poet tries to sort through her emotions by writing haikus in invisible ink, which she hides somewhere secret. And then one day, someone writes back. As she tries to solve the mystery, she becomes closer to several classmates, including Will, an analytical boy with a passion for labyrinths and mazes. Can Will help Bea sort through the labyrinth of her feelings to find a new sense of self? With a realistic depiction of middle-school awkwardness and an exuberant main character who dances to her own playlist, this book celebrates the power of friendship to help someone through difficult times.
12-year-old Ellen has seen her mother fall into depression before, but when her father has to leave to fight in World War II, it happens again — worse than ever. When it becomes obvious that her mother can't care for them, Ellen has only one choice: reach out to her cold aunt Pearl and accept leaving the city for Pearl's country home. Now Ellen faces outhouses, a one-room schoolhouse, and a classmate who smells like skunks, Russell. But Russell also offers a chance at a true friendship, one deep enough that Ellen can confess her fears that she'll face depression too. This touching novel shows the power of human connection to heal the heart.
Aven has long since gotten tired of questions about what "happened" to her arms, so she creates crazy stories instead of repeating over and over that she was born without them. When her family moves to Arizona to run a theme park called Stagecoach Pass, she steels herself for even more questions. Then she meets Connor, who also feels isolated by disability (in his case, Tourette's Syndrome.) And when the newfound friends discover a mystery at Stagecoach Pass, the real adventure can begin! This quirky adventure starring a delightfully funny main character is a reminder that others' reactions are often more problematic than the disability itself — and that with a good friend by your side, you can achieve anything.
Julia and her best friend Patrick would love to win a blue ribbon at the state fair, so they need a top-notch project. Julia's mom suggests raising silkworms like she did as a child in Korea, and Patrick loves the idea — but Julia is tired of standing out for her background, and secretly hopes the "not American enough" project will fail, especially once she and Patrick start having trouble finding mulberry leaves, the only thing the silkworms will eat. As they get to know Mr. Dixon, an elderly African-American man who is willing to give them the leaves they need, and the silkworms start growing, the pair will wrestle with racism, life and death, and self-acceptance...together. This funny and poignant story also provides interesting details about silkworm life cycles and sustainable farming.
As a practicing Buddhist in Tibet, Tash must follow many rules set by the occupying Chinese soldiers — but as long as she and her family hide their religion and don't mention the Dalai Lama, their lives are peaceful. But when one man protests the occupation in a dramatic fashion, the soldiers crack down, breaking into Tash's house; her parents are arrested and Tash barely escapes. To find safety, she and her best friend Sam — and their two borrowed yaks — will have to rely on one another as they travel across the mountains in hopes of reaching in the Indian border. This action-packed story celebrates courage, the will to survive, and the power of friendship to provide hope in desperate times.
Ever since her father died, astronomy-loving Calliope June has struggled with her mother's constant moves — and faced rejection among new sets of peers when her Tourette's syndrome causes facial tics and noises that she can't control. When they arrive in St. George, Utah, Calli once again tries and fails to blend in, but she finds friendship with her neighbor Jinsong, the student body president and a sports star. But will he be brave enough to make their friendship public? And what if Calli's mom decides to move again just as she's beginning to feel like her differences aren't the end of the world? Told in Calli and Jinsong's dual perspectives, in prose poetry and free verse, this touching story celebrates the power of accepting — and being true — to who you are.
The streets of Chennai are dangerous for children, but when life gets more dangerous at home, sisters Viji and Rukku become runaways. Fortunately, before long the girls find shelter under and abandoned bridges, as well as friendship, both from a puppy they name Kutti and from two runaway boys, Muthi and Arul. Muthi and Arul are so taken with Viji's storytelling that they agree to teach her and Rukku how to scavenge the garbage dump for items to sell. And when tragedy strikes, their new family will help Viji come to terms with her grief. Written in the form of a letter from Viji to Rukku, this vividly emotional book gently explores issues around poverty, caste, and child labor through the story of one girl.
When Sunflower and her father are forced to move to the rural Chinese countryside, she wishes she could go and play with the children in the village on the other side of the river. When her father tragically drowns, Sunflower is taken in by the village's poorest family. There, she meets Bronze, the family's son who has been traumatized into silence by a terrible fire. The pair become inseparable, and their bond helps both of them learn the power of loyalty and love and the importance of a connected community. Newly translated from the original Mandarin, this Hans Christian Andersen Award-winning story is not to be missed.
When Tyler's father is injured, his family has to hire a family of undocumented Mexican workers to help on the farm. Mari, the family's oldest daughter, that means a strange in-between life: proud of her Mexican heritage, tied to a life in America, and ever fearful of immigration agents. Although they seem quite different, Tyler and Mari form a strong friendship, and Mari slowly reveals her family's story — including the disappearance of her mother on a trip back to Mexico. And when "coyotes" contact the family demanding money for Mama's return, it's Tyler who helps the family reunite. There's nothing Tyler can do when immigration raids the farm, but perhaps their friendship can still provide solace and strength — for both of them. This complex, nuanced novel raises intriguing questions, but Tyler and Mari's friendship shines throughout it all.
Miss Moses LoBeau is used to everything being everyone's business in her hometown of Tupelo Landing, NC — but the one thing nobody knows is where she came from: she washed up after a hurricane as a baby. Colonel, the cafe owner, and Miss Lana, the cafe hostess, have provided her a home, while her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, joins her on her adventures — and she would fight for any one of them. So when a murder/robbery happens in their little town, and a lawman comes around asking questions, Mo and Dale step up to solve the mystery...and along the way, Mo just might learn more about herself. Fans of this volume can follow Mo and Dale's adventures in The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and The Odds of Getting Even.
Callie's school year starts with heartbreak: after her hopes fly high when she gets a kiss from an upperclassman, he rejects her at school the next day. She opts to throw herself into the school musical — where the drama, of course, isn’t confined to the stage. There, she meets brothers Justin and Jesse, who understand her passion for musical theater...and sympathize with the challenges of dealing with crushes and romance. Their friendship will help Callie build confidence in her grandest plans, and in return, Callie will help them acknowledge the truth about themselves. This story of friendship is full of humor, angst, and all the challenges of middle school.
Big secrets and tough choices can complicate a friendship — but a friend can also give you the courage to be yourself. Timothy McGrother is actually Lily, and she feels trapped in a body that looks like a boy; Norbert Dorfman is new in town, struggling to maintain a normal life even though he's gone off his medication for bipolar disorder in order to play on the middle school basketball team. When the two of them meet, for the first time, each has someone who is ready to take them just as they are. Alternating first-person chapters tell the story of how Norbert becomes Dunkin and Timothy becomes Lily, thanks to the support of a new friend.
Marah is an intelligent young woman and a gifted violinist — but she's also halani, the underclass in her world, who the upperclass kasir magicians dismissively call sparkers. But when a mysterious plague strikes her city, Marah develops an unexpected friendship with a kasir boy named Azariah. Together, they decide to pursue a cure — in secret, because they can't easily work together publicly. But more people are dying every day, and when Marah and Azariah make a shocking discovery, it will take both of their talents to evade government agents and try to save the people they care about. This story takes on complex discussions about discrimination and oppression — and features an equally complex friendship that dares to cross class lines.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For books about identifying and strengthening positive friendships — with boys and girls — visit our blog Making and Keeping Friends: Mighty Girl Books About Building Healthy Friendships.
- For more books celebrating friends, both boys and girls, visit our Friendship Collection.