Friends Are Friends, Forever
Friends Are Friends, Forever
I watch other kids slide.
I hear them giggle.
But when I come near, the circles close, and I can’t say anything.
I race – to learn a hundred words a day.
Sometimes I get ten, sometimes only three.
Every night, I fall asleep hugging a list and my dictionary.
Leaves fall. No snow.
I tuck Yueyue’s gift deep under my bed.
Best friends Dandan and Yueyue live in a northeastern city in China. They love to have snow fun on long and cold winter days. Their favourite tradition is to make paper-cut snowflakes and freeze them into shiny ice ornaments on a tree. And this Lunar New Year will be their last time creating shiny snowflakes together. Dandan is moving to America with her family, a very, very far away place. Before saying goodbye, Yueyue gives Dandan a stack of red paper and a spool of string for Dandan to make cutouts with a new friend in her new home. However, the new life with quiet streets and strange words feels so lonely, and Dandan tucks Yueyue’s gifts under the bed. Life without a friend is hard until a girl with red hair and a sunny smile shows up. Friendship with Christina opens Dandan up and brings back her happy self. This Lunar New Year, shiny snowflakes are once again hanging in a tree, accompanied by the laughter of two best friends.
This story is based on the author Dane Liu’s own experience. She grew up in a city in Northeastern China where she spent most of her days with her best friend Yueyue. Dane tunes in the challenges she faces during the transition and shares them with the reader through the eyes of a young girl. The reader, brought into Dandan’s world, empathizes with her – the difficulties a newcomer child faces, the unspoken sense of homesickness, and the splendid joy of meeting a new friend and forming a friendship that “transcends culture, language, background, and race.” At the end of the book, the reader is invited to practice Chinese paper cutting via a detailed tutorial that shows how to make a snowflake.
Lynn Scurfield’s illustrations well support the story. The colours used for Lunar New Year when Dandan is in China with Yueyue are warm and festivous, spreading red for the atmosphere of Lunar New Year. When Dandan moves to America, colours turn cold. In the end, multiple bright colours appear again when a new friendship flourishes. A touching detail many readers might notice is the presence of a picture of Dandan and Yueyue hugging and the letters between the two girls written in Chinese. Friendships empower Dandan, close and afar, an echo to the “forever” portion of the book’s title.
We need more picture books like Friends Are Friends, Forever that tell stories from the inside of immigrant communities. Young readers will see themselves and/or their friends in the story from a personal perspective, which is always powerful. This book can also serve as a great tool to introduce culture and tradition about Lunar New Year, and it comes with a hands-on activity of paper cutting! Hope to see it in classrooms and libraries.
Emma Chen is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Saskatchewan where her research focus is on immigrant parent knowledge and heritage language education.