September:  The Joy of Friendship

No September joy is more exhilarating than the joy of friendship – whether new or renewed.  As children across the country return to the classroom, they revel in the search for good friends. “A friend is a second self,” Aristotle explained.  At best, friendships build us up and make us more truly ourselves than we could be on our own.  How do true friends treat each other?  What joys and burdens do friends share and bear?  The answers are limitless.

Some classics from early childhood are still delightful friendship reads for K-3.  A.A. Milne’s tales of Winnie-the-Pooh showcase the timeless friendship of Pooh and Piglet in any number of settings and remind us that “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.” Here are a few other stellar books, pointing past the basics of respect and responsibility to the greater joy of friendship.


Amos and Boris

by William Steig.  Square Fish: Reissue, 2009. (K-3)

A playful, lyrically written story of two unlikely friends – a mouse and a whale.  Their mutual devotion becomes not just a source of delight, but of survival.  Steig’s whimsy and sophisticated vocabulary make this book a joy for parents, as well as young children.

Damon, Pythias,
and the Test of True Friendship





Retold by Teresa Bateman.  Illustrated by Layne Johnson.  Albert Whitman and Co., 2009

Damon and Pythias is a classic tale of Greek mythology and the gold standard for friendships ever since.  It is retold for young readers with verve and vibrant illustrations. Damon offers to stand in for Pythias, even if it means his own death. The story is one of loyalty and friendship in the face of extraordinary danger. 

Gilgamesh the King. gilgamesh


Ludmila Zeman.   Tundra Books, 1998. (3-6)

A spectacularly illustrated retelling for children of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh.  In this first of three volumes, Gilgamesh, who lives in isolation and rules with cruelty, discovers the meaning of friendship and compassion when he is befriended by Enkidu.

devotedThe Devoted Friend 
Oscar Wilde.  BookSurge Classics, 2004.

A satirical tale for older children.  A rich miller professes to be the “devoted friend” of a poor farmer, but uses and abuses him at every turn.  This tongue-in-cheek story is a good springboard for discussion of the difference between professed devotion and true friendship.

Each month on the Core Virtues website, we feature the life of a hero or heroine – men and women who have tirelessly pursued excellence in their lives and helped improve the lives of others. We tie each month’s biography to the virtue of the month or to a theme suggested by the particular time of the year.


Respect and Responsibility

In September, when students begin their studies, they are often torn between “back to school” excitement and the lure of fading summer joys.   What better heroine for September than that chronicler of the sea, Rachel Carson!

Rachel Carson 1907-1964

rachelCarson’s childhood love of the sea and all of nature led her to a fruitful career in marine biology and gave our country a poetic and prolific writer on natural history.   Her three volumes Under the Sea Wind (1941), The Sea Around Us (1950), and At the Edge of the Sea (1953) were histories of the ocean and its sea life.  Her lifelong interest in preserving natural wonders made her one of the first environmentalists. 

In the 1960s, she began to write on the dangers of new chemical pesticides (DDT) being sprayed without regard to the delicate ecosystems they damaged. Her most famous book, Silent Spring, published in 1962 helped launch the environmental movement, and is widely regarded as one of the best volumes of non-fiction published in the twentieth century. Discover Magazine named Silent Spring one of the 25 greatest science books of all time. Carson’s work educates, instills a sense of wonder, and actually led to banning of DDT as pesticide.

In September, as Core Virtues schools focus on “respect and responsibility,” we hope you’ll celebrate this woman who throughout her career exemplified respect for our natural world and care in its stewardship.   

Younger readers will enjoy: 
r carson


Rachel Carson: Preserving a Sense of Wonder
Joseph Bruchac.
Illustrated by Thomas Locker.  Fulcrum Publishing, 2004.  



Students in grades 5-8 will be riveted by:


Rachel Carson: A Twentieth-Century Life Ellen S. Levine.
Viking Juvenile, 2007.



September 11 Recommendations:

At the primary grade level, a simple and solemn acknowledgement of the day and its significance could be followed by a reading of:

NY bravestNew York’s Bravest Mary Pope Osborne
Dragonfly Books, 2006. K-3

This tall tale of Mose Humphrey, a legendary nineteenth century New York firefighter, is dedicated to the memory of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in rescue efforts on that day.  While squarely in the tradition of tall tales, Osborne’s retelling invokes the heroism and courage of those who actually run into harm’s way, while others are fleeing from it.  A fitting tribute to those who lost their lives helping the victims of that tragedy.

For the upper grade levels, a clear and sober overview is:

AmericaAmerica Is Under Attack Don Brown 
Flash Point, 2011.  4-6

This is an honest, sober, and gripping account of September 11 by children’s author Don Brown, who has written on topics ranging from the sinking of the Titanic to Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon.  At 48 pages with evocative water color illustrations, it is a succinct and compelling overview for fourth to sixth graders.