The bonding nature of friendship is a little like a lightning strike. It hits where it hits, with random but powerful precision. Children's literature legend Charlotte Zolotow captures the simple magic of that electrifying process in her latest book, My Friend John. Using the soft spoken eloquence that has become her trademark after more than 70 picture books, 85-year-old Zolotow maps out a short lifetime of shared history between a freckle faced strawberry blond and his dark, fun loving friend John. The two boys share all of their dreams and fears, every season and secret. He admires John's leaps from the high dive at the pool, but keeps secret his quiet fear of cats. John knows his friend isn't afraid of a scuffle, but sleeps with a light on in the dark.
With each turn of the page, we come to understand that John and his friend are close without hesitation they are friends for better or worse. They feel no need to conceal their boyish tenderness, so tenderness remains a quality rather than a stereotypical "masculine" flaw. In fact, stereotypes of any kind never enter into the fictional mix. Not surprising considering the precedent set by one of Zolotow's first and most famous picture books, William's Doll. The story of a boy's yearning for a doll is still in print today, more than 25 years after its original release. Acceptance and unconditional love underscore each of Zolotow's understated lines. And Amanda Harvey's delicately vibrant illustrations perfectly blend with Zolotow's soft but colorful ideals. My Friend John is the story of friendship between young boys as it is or at the very least, as it certainly could be.
Kelly Milner Halls writes from her home in Spokane, Washington, where she hopes to collect good friends like John and Zolotow herself.