The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Julie Vivas, paperback picture book, first published by Margaret Hamilton Books in 1989, this edition published by Scholastic Australia Pty Limited in 2004.
James and Jessie live on a farm with lots of animals, but only one cat, William. As James goes about his jobs on the farm, William goes with him, he curls up on his lap in the evenings and on the bed at night. And then James dies suddenly and Jessie falls deep into grief, shutting William out, letting him run wild and become mean, something he never was with James. To move forwards, Jessie must work on her friendship with William and regain his trust.
A poignant tale of friendship and loss, beautifully spun for younger children, The Very Best of Friends will touch your heart. It is a reminder that all relationships need work, and if you fail to tend them, they will wither, but with a little love, kindness and attention they might thrive again.
While the story is beautiful, the illustrations are distinctive and just gorgeous. I love the way that William is depicted, and how he changes from the well-tended cat to the wild thing he becomes after James dies.
The Very Best of Friends is suitable for primary school children. It is a book I read as a young child, and I am now sharing it with my own children. This wonderful picture book can be used to start a discussion on the complicated issues of loss and grief, and that life must go on. Though something sad happens, the friendship that blooms between Jessie and William is lovely and inspiring. It is important to keep living your life even when you have lost someone, and I found this book to be helpful in explaining that to my children.
* The Very Best of Friends won the 1990 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Picture Book category.