September 11, 2023

Friends Find a Way!

Written by Heather M. O'Connor
Illustrated by Claudia Dávila
Scholastic Canada
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
September 2023
When Suze first joined Tyson's class in Heather M. O'Connor's Fast Friends (2020), there was some nervousness about a non-verbal child in a wheelchair becoming friends with a boy who couldn't slow down. But, the two children did become friends, and fast friends at that, with Suze enjoying the speed in her wheelchair as much as Tyson loved helping her race about. Now the class is heading to the zoo for a field trip and both Tyson and Suze are excited to see the cheetah, an animal known for speed.
From Friends Find a Way!, written by Heather M. O'Connor, illus. by Claudia Dávila
At the zoo, the class are buddied up–Tyson with Suze–and told to stay together. As they focus on visiting different animals, the kids help direct the class, using the map. Of course, when it's time to see the cheetah, Tyson and Suze know just where to go. But as Tyson remains enthralled with the cheetahs, the class moves on, and suddenly Tyson and Suze are on their own. Tyson hadn't been paying attention, but Suze had, and though she can't express herself verbally, she knows how to tell Tyson where the class has gone.
From Friends Find a Way!, written by Heather M. O'Connor, illus. by Claudia Dávila
While some readers may see Suze's disability as the focus of Friends Find a Way!, author Heather M. O'Connor spends less time on Suze's limitations and more on the connection that Suze and Tyson have. That friendship may have been based initially on their appreciation for speed, but it has evolved into one of camaraderie, similar interests, and cooperation. There is no judgment about who can do or can't do something but instead shows them working together to get what they both need and want. It's that working together to navigate the rambling paths of the zoo to the missing class and to get there as quickly as possible that is how this friendship works. And a story about friends finding a way, whether to rejoining their class or to making their lives fuller and better, is the way to go.
From Friends Find a Way!, written by Heather M. O'Connor, illus. by Claudia Dávila
Claudia Dávila, who illustrated Fast Friends as well as Friends Find a Way!, keeps her digital art colourful, upbeat and dynamic, just like Suze and Tyson. And her illustrations are as inclusive as Heather M. O'Connor's story. Claudia Dávila shows us people of all ages, abilities, cultures and more and makes them all part of the community. And with a delightful assortment of animals, from the sloth and red panda, Komodo dragon and kangaroos, she also takes us on a visit to the zoo alongside Suze and Tyson's class.

Friends do find a way to make things work and Tyson and Suze have found a friendship that works for them, whether at school or at the zoo. They are truly fast friends, both in the speed of their mobility and in the security of the connection, with new experiences strengthening that bond even more.

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Friends Find a Way (2023)

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