Thursday, September 16, 2021

BFF or NRF?: A Girl's Guide to Happy Friendships - Jessica Speer (Illustrations by Elowyn Dickerson)

Summary: Friendships are tough to navigate, even for adults.  The preteen years can be particularly sticky, but we've got your back! Packed with fun quizzes, colorful illustrations, and stories about girls just like you, BFF or NRF? (Not Really Friends) is the ultimate interactive guidebook to help you learn the ins and outs of friendship.  Explore the topics of gossip, bullying, and feeling left out, along with ways to strengthen the friendships that mean the most to you.  

(Summary from the back of the book - Images from workman.com - This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

My Review:   Have you ever thought someone was your friend only to find out they really didn't have your best interests at heart?  Do you have children and hope to help them avoid drama and build healthy friendships?  If so, you need to read BFF or NRF?: A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships, a useful tool to help young readers develop friendship and communication skills that will last a lifetime.  

BFF or NRF? is presented in a colorful, tween-friendly format, with easy-to-read font and engaging doodle-style illustrations.  My 11-year-old was drawn right to it.  To start, author Jessica Speer uses two straightforward quizzes (How Healthy is My Friendship? and How are my Friendship Skills?) to help direct the reader to the specific chapters best suited to their needs.*  Explored in this individualized manner or read cover-to-cover, young readers will learn how to evaluate the health of their own relationships and further develop their own friendship skills.  It even helps readers navigate some of the trickier aspects of friendship (e.g., what to do with an unsafe secret, how to give a sincere apology, etc.) and includes important reminders, personal stories, and quotes from other girls who are on their own friendship journeys.  I can (and will) go on, but Speer brings so much good stuff to the table that I'm going to bullet point the rest:

  • How to process big emotions like anger, fear, sadness in healthy ways (and how to recognize unhealthy ones).     
  • How to use I-statements to help resolve friendship problems (Conflict Resolution 101).
  • How to consider multiple solutions and choose what feels right.
  • Talks about the difference between close friends (aka BFFs), friends, and acquaintances and how to handle NRF's (aka Not-Really-Friends).  Hint: Approach with compassion and caution.
  • Contains tips for making new friends and taking care of oneself during hard times.
  • There's even a list of book club discussion questions, which helps facilitate conversations about the material!  💓💓💓

My favorite part of the book was the author's discussion of nine common sense truths about friends and friendships.  Though Speer explores each one more fully in the book, I'll share the basic truths here so you can fall in love with them like I did.  

  1. Healthy friendships feel safe and accepting
  2. Everyone develops friendship skills at a different pace.
  3. Friendships have different phases and change over time.
  4. Close friendships can be hard to find and may not happen until middle school or later.
  5. Some girls with strong friendship qualities may not have the "most" friends.  Sometimes girls with the "most" friends do not make the "best" friends.
  6. Everyone makes mistakes.
  7. We teach others how we want to be treated by speaking up.
  8. When things get tough in friendship, it's important to respond in a way that feels right to you.
  9. You choose which of your friendships to grow.  Grow the healthy ones!

Speers is always encouraging and never negative, which I adore. If either the reader or one of their
friends is struggling in a specific area, she emphasizes that those skills simply 'need some practice,' that we all learn at our own pace, and that everyone has the ability to choose and to change.

I have four daughters ranging in age from tween to teen and, quite frankly, all of them could use this book.  Although it focuses on helping female friendships, the lessons inside are equally applicable regardless of gender and incredibly important.  If you have kids and want to help them recognize, develop, and maintain healthy friendships, I highly recommend BFF or NRF?: A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships.     

*The author also reminds the reader (see right) to keep all quiz results and/or recorded responses private, to only share them with a trusted adult, and never use them to bully or criticize others, which I think shows an clear understanding of her audience and certain 'tweenage' tendencies. 

My Rating:  5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  All clear.

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