Fans of Eric Carle won’t want to miss his latest offering, a tribute to friendship based on one of the author’s own childhood experiences.

As the book opens, we see two friends playing together happily. By the next spread, however, the boy is sad. His friend has moved away. He takes a deep breath, counts to 10 and heads out to find her. He swims a wide, cold river under a starry sky. He scales a steep mountain. He makes his way through the tall, damp grasses of a meadow. On and on he journeys: Rain, fatigue and dark shadows won’t stop him. Eventually, he finds her, giving her the same bouquet of flowers featured on the book’s title page. “I knew you would come,” she says.

The children are featured only on the first couple of spreads, as well as the last one. All the brightly colored pages in between feature Carle’s signature broad brush strokes, very texturized paper tissue collages and abstract renderings, pared down to their essentials. The meadow is merely a series of thick, green brush strokes. The river is composed of large, wavy lines in various shades of blues and greens, undulating across the page. There’s no boy in sight, as if to emphasize the enormity of the journey—or perhaps to put readers into the boy’s own shoes.

On a closing spread, Carle shares a childhood photo of a friend, now lost to him, but on the dust jacket, we read that his wife, Bobbie, was inspiration for the book as well. Friends is a sweet story of devotion for the youngest of readers.

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