Friends to the End

No matter where you wing-it, life’s more fun with friends. Newsbee couldn’t agree more. While the queen is regal, she’s out of my class. I’d rather pal around with daring drones like Betty, Bob and Buttercup, true “Friends to the End.” Bet my red specs, you’ll want to share my May Picks with your best buds, along with a teacup of nectar.

‘Horsefly and Honeybee’ by Riley Cecil

Occasionally a relationship can get thorny. Buddies hit rough spots in the road and have disagreements with their pals. Two insects have to reach deep to settle a quarrel in “Horsefly and Honeybee,” a simple story with sunshiny illustrations by Riley Cecil.

Honeybee’s wings are dragging, and the buzzer decides to grab some shuteye in a bright-yellow lily. But hold on there! That flower’s taken. A horsefly has claimed the blossom as its resting place. Two winged wonders in one spot are too many. Before you can say nay, horsefly and honeybee come to blows, each losing a wing in the fray.

Now the insects are really on the outs. With only one wing each they can’t fly, and so must resort to hoofing it over hill and dale. That’s all well and good until a pond appears. How is honeybee going to get across the water?

The bee receives a ride from a pesky green frog that deposits honeybee on a lily pad, right next to you know who. Now the two feuding friends must cooperate to save their skins, to keep from being ingested by the froggy fiends.

‘Zero the Hero’ by Joan Houb

Poor ol’ Zero; he’s a nothing to his buddies.

The number just doesn’t add up, but reading “Zero the Hero,” is total fun, a clever, word-play book by Joan Holub with zany cartoon illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld, of “Duck Goose” fame.

Though Zero doesn’t have the power of numbers one through 10, and occasionally is “mistaken for other circular objects,” though his friends are often “unkind,” and make him feel less than, his “belief in his wonderfulness persisted.” Zero’s optimism and spirit rise when he realizes that any number times him equals zero, a powerful attribute that carries some real clout, but scares his fellow numbers because they realize they could be nothings if they hang with this wholly, but humble, character.

Upset at his lot in life, Zero rolls away, to the eventual dismay of his fellow numbers. They soon see that problems can’t be solved without Zero in the equation. Missing their friend, and lamenting their loss, they become distracted to the umpteenth degree and don’t pay heed to the dangerous deeds of some Roman numerals that surround them. Leave it up to Zero to save the day and make a hero out of his nothingness.

‘The One and Only Ivan’ by Katherine Applegate

An adorable young friend gives an old Silverback Ape hope for the future in “The One and Only Ivan,” a must-read by Katherine Applegate.

As a baby, Ivan is snatched from the jungle. After his original owner gives him up, he’s adopted by Mack, the owner of Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Mack bottlefed and diapered him, but as Ivan grows, and becomes less manageable, he’s turned out of the house and relegated to a cage behind glass, only released to perform with equally downtrodden wild animals at the Big Top Mall.

Ivan endures 27 years of captivity, but he has the low-level glummies about being imprisoned. Things only get worse when the Big Top falls on hard times. Overnight Mack gets meaner to Ivan’s friend Stella, a kind elephant with a big heart and swollen foot.

To make some cash for the Big Top, Ivan draws crayon pictures that Mack sells, but the ringleader needs another way to make money and arranges to buy a baby elephant to attract circus-goers — a newcomer named Ruby that becomes Ivan’s dear friend.

More than anything Ivan doesn’t want Ruby to suffer the same fate as he has, a life in captivity being a “one and only.” The great ape goes to great means to do everything he can to prevent this from happening in a story that will touch the hearts of readers 8 to 84.

Reprinted with permission, Missourian Publishing Company. Copyright 2012.