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What friends do best

Illustrated by Nathan Reed

Winston is great at building things.
Building things is what Winston does best.
He's built a boat for Alice and
a motorbike for Ralph.
But it's not until Winston tries to build something really big that he finds out what friends do best.

"A fabulous book with a great message ...
Highly recommended!"

FAMILIES ONLINE

"A gentle, upbeat fable that should delight very young audiences and the adults who read it to them."

KIRKUS REVIEWS

UK

UK Hardcover • ISBN: 0007141203

UK Paperback • ISBN: 0007141211

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Illustrations © 2004 Nathan Reed. Reproduced by permission of Collins Children's Books.


The plot of What Friends Do Best was originally devised as a sequel to another of my picture books Bringing Down the Moon. The main character of that book was a mole, but the sequel was to be centred on Mole's friend, squirrel. The story was about how Squirrel wanted to prepare a big meal for all her friends. She starts off determined to do everything herself, declining all offers of assistance. But when things go wrong, she learns that she cannot succeed without the help of her friends.

However, the editor I was working with was not happy with the story, so I tried to take a fresh look at it.

Around this time I saw a TV documentary series called Plane Crazy, made by the US writer and broadcaster Bob Cringely. In the series Bob, an experienced amateur plane builder, sets out to design, build and fly an airplane in just 30 days. You don't have to be an aircraft designer to appreciate what a hugely ambitious project this was and it wasn't long before Bob found himself way behind schedule and working late into the night in an attempt to make up for lost time. As Bob becomes increasingly exhausted and depressed his girlfriend and even the camera crew offer to help out, but Bob insists on soldiering on alone. However, as the deadline draws near, it becomes clear that Bob has no hope of completing the task alone and he eventually accepts assistance.

The idea that it's OK to let your friends help seemed to come as a great revelation to Bob and this part of the programme struck a resounding chord with me. The situation in the documentary seemed to relate so well to what I wanted to write about in my story that I abandoned the idea of using the story as a sequel* and reworked the plot with a new set of characters - a cat, a dog and a mouse - and made it about constructing a vehicle instead of preparing a meal.

The vehicle that the three friends build is deliberately not mentioned in the text, as I wanted to keep readers guessing what it was right up to the end**. However there are some clues in Nathan Reed's illustrations. Some of the clues are straightforward, like bits of the vehicle that are seen lying around in Winston's workshop. Others are more tricky – a few boffins may recognise that the formulae jotted on the back of the drawing that Winston show his friends are for calculating aerial trajectories and that the distances written across the top of the same drawing are big enough to be interplanetary.

 
* I have since written several sequels to "Bringing Down the Moon"

** I wrote this before the paperback edition came out. The paperback has the completed vehicle on the cover, so it's identity is no longer a mystery.

This book is for
my friends
Dom &
Katharine


When Winston the cat starts his big new building project, he insists that he can manage on his own – but it only really takes off when he lets his friends help. To his frustration, Winston can’t find the tiny pieces of his kit – and he can’t lift the biggest pieces. But sorting out tiny things is Alice the mouse’s great strength – and Ralph the dog is good at carrying large items. By working together, they make the project both fun, and a success.
What Friends Do Best is all about building things, which many small children will be able to identify with, and the illustrations are gorgeously bold and colourful. It’s a fabulous book with a great message: if friends pull together, it’s amazing what they can do.
Highly recommended!

FAMILIES ONLINE

This bright, eye-catching picture book was an instant success when I shared it with a class of Year 1 children, and when we went on to discuss it the superlatives quickly flowed. Nathan Reed’s busy cartoon-like illustrations are full of interesting detail and complement Jonathan Emmett’s economical narrative.
 Highly recommended.

Derek Lomas, SCHOOL LIBRARIAN

This fast paced story is masterfully written with problems, solutions and outcomes all linking together quickly ... The pictures are bright and engaging with wonderful details for children to investigate.

BRIGHTSTAR BEDTIME STORIES

Reed`s offbeat illustrations feature a plethora of quirky shapes, funny details and an attractive palette of secondary color ... A gentle, upbeat fable that should delight very young audiences and the adults who read it to them.

KIRKUS REVIEWS

Jonathan Emmett and Nathan Reed deliver a simple truth in this lovely picture book for three to five-year-olds and that is, great things are often achieved only through friendship and cooperation ... a great way into talking about children's interpersonal skills without being heavy-handed.

THE INVERNESS COURIER

A jolly tale of friendship and co-operation with an important message that is all too often overlooked in today’s competitive world.

Jill Bennett, WORDPOOL

Perfect for read-aloud, this book will be a favourite with children from Prep - Year 2 ... Bright and particularly detailed, the illustrations are a visual feast; they will captivate young readers’ attention and interest and will give them alternate and independent access to the story.

QUEENSLAND LIBRARY SERVICES

A bright and colourful picture book with wacky illustrations and a lovely story about friendship and of course, what friends do best!
OTTAKAR'S BOOK OF THE MONTH - JULY 2005

Aidan MacDonald, OTTAKAR'S