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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Gracie is full of mixed emotions: she’s happy that school has been canceled for at least a week; she’s sad that she can’t see, visit or play with her friends; and she’s scared of what this Covid pandemic is all about. She knows her parents and her grandmother, Mimi, are worried, too. Gracie settles into a routine of schoolwork at home, daily screen time with Mimi, talking to her best friends, Lexie, Morgan, and Sophie, and doing puzzles, reading, and trying to have some fun while stuck at home with Dad working in an upstairs bedroom and Mom finding ways to keep her busy. When she shares with Mimi stories about her new friends and how they poop everywhere and she kept them locked in cages, Mimi is confused until she learns that these new friends, Raven and Squeaky, are guinea pigs, Gracie’s new pets. When Gracie’s Mom devises a plan with Lexie’s, Moran’s, and Sophie’s moms to have safe play sessions outside, things improve, and the creative powers of the imagination bond the girls in their activities, even though social distancing is still the norm.
Darlene Decrane’s early reader, The Four Ever Friends: The Beginning, is a compassionate telling of a difficult era in contemporary history. The author has woven a plot around the Covid pandemic and how it affected young people, stuck at home, isolated and frightened. The language is simple to help young readers work on their reading skills; there’s plenty of dialogue to help move the story along, and there are charming and imaginative illustrations to accompany the growing plot. The powerful message that rings through this entire story is the importance of family and friends and the lasting bonds created. Imagination is also emphasized, as young minds had to be creative in coming up with ways to entertain themselves during these difficult times. The story is fun, true to life, sometimes sad, and sometimes humorous. This is the first book in the Four Ever Friends series.