Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Deb Pilutti's Five Favorite Books About Unlikely Friendship . . . Plus a GIVEAWAY!*

Today we have a special guest in the Cottage . . . DEB PILUTTI! Yes, really! Deb is the author-illustrator of several picture books, including Ten Rules of Being a Superhero and the brand-new Bear and Squirrel Are Friends . .  Yes, Really! 
Kirkus calls it a "A nifty, expectation-defying read-aloud." 

* ENTER TO WIN a SIGNED COPY of BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS . . . . YES, REALLY! by leaving a comment below! We''ll announce the winner on Wednesday, Oct. 28th!

From BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS . . .  YES, REALLY! Illustration copyright 2015 by Deb Pilutti.

From BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS . . .  YES, REALLY! Illustration copyright 2015 by Deb Pilutti.

We love Bear and Squirrel! Come on, how cute are they? We asked Deb to share her five favorite picture books about other unlikely friends -- a difficult task! Here are her top picks:

The Lion and the Bird 
by Marian Dubuc
Two animals, a small bird and one adult lion, come into each other’s lives by chance. The Lion, who has been living a quiet but fulfilling, solitary life, finds the injured bird and nurses it to health. The bird is unable to join her flock and the two become friends and spend a cozy winter together. When spring comes, the flock returns and the bird rejoins his clan. There’s no high stakes drama, just a tender friendship tale with underlying currents of loneliness, contentment, loss and joy. The charming illustrations expertly match the emotions being conveyed. This book makes my heart sing.
Arnie the Doughnut
by Laurie Keller
What could be a more unlikely pairing in a picture book than an older gentleman and a doughnut? If someone explained the premise of this book to me BEFORE I read it, I would have thought they were joking. But Arnie wins our hearts from the get-go. He is a fully rounded character (wink) and proud to be a doughnut with all of his glorious sprinkles. When he discovers that the nice man who buys him is actually going to EAT him, Arnie becomes outraged. He pleads his case with Mr. Bing, and Mr. Bing eventually realizes that Arnie makes a much better friend than a snack. Mr. Bing and Arnie have remained fast friends and shared adventures through 4 books to date. Keller gives her characters such amusing expressions, clever conversation and general silliness that any age reader will be laughing throughout.

Officer Buckle and Gloria 
by Peggy Rathmann
Really good friends shine a light on one another, especially when they are faltering. This is definitely the case in Peggy Rathmann’s very funny Officer Buckle and Gloria. Before the police dog, Gloria, starts appearing with Officer Buckle at his safety talks, students and teachers were dozing off mid-lecture. But thanks to Gloria’s hilarious antics, all performed behind Officer Buckle’s back, the lessons become a huge hit. The only problem is that when Officer Buckle finds out that it is Gloria, not his lessons that are popular, his feelings get hurt and he refuses to give any more safety talks. Gloria tries doing the safety lessons on her own, but the solo attempt is a disaster. The two discover they are better as a team. Rathmann’s expressive illustrations will give you giggle fits.

Owen & Mzee
The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
as told by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff and Dr. Paula Kahumbu

photographs by Peter Greste
I am a sucker for true-life unlikely animal friendships. I’ll watch any internet video or meme if it shows a monkey cuddling a baby tiger or a deer who wanders into a house to hang out on the couch with the family golden retriever and cat. This story of a 130-year-old giant tortoise named Mzee and an orphaned 1-year-old hippopotamus named Owen is one of the best unlikely animal stories. It starts with the dramatic situation of Owen losing both his herd and mother. After a daring rescue, Owen relocates to the Haller Park animal sanctuary where it is the cranky, standoffish Mzee who is able to comfort the baby hippo. The two bond and become inseparable. 

A Ghost Story
by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Everyone needs a friend and a ghost is no exception. Especially a young ghost named Leo who has been living in a house for a long time, reading and drawing pictures in the dust. The problem is that no one can actually see Leo. They walk right through him or become frightened by his ghostly actions. Until he meets Jane, a young girl with a vivid imagination. She believes Leo to be an imaginary friend and the two have wonderful adventures. One night, Leo uses his ghostly abilities to scare a sneak thief and discloses to Jane that he is, in fact, a ghost. Jane sees Leo for exactly what he is, a friend. Christian Robinson’s spare, mixed-media illustrations are wonderfully playful and perfectly expressive.


Bear and Squirrel Are Friends ...Yes Really!
by Deb Pilutti
Published by Paula Wiseman Books
ISBN: 978-1481429139

"This very funny story tests and tickles readers' faith in unlikely friendships before ending up right where it should." --Publishers Weekly

"A nifty, expectation-defying read-aloud." --Kirkus Reviews
by Deb Pilutti
Published by Christy Ottaviano Books, Oct. 2014
ISBN: 978-0805097597
“This story illuminates the fantasy world of one little boy and his favorite toy, Captain Magma . . . will appeal to young superheroes (and their sidekicks) everywhere.” ―School Library Journal

“Instead of opting for braggadocio and mock high drama, Pilutti's duo's self-awareness and low-stakes theatrics have an offhanded, almost improvisational vibe.” ―Publishers Weekly

Deb Pilutti feels lucky to have a job where reading, playing with toys and watching cartoons is considered “research.” Deb has worked as a graphic designer and illustrator, most recently for, and now spends her time writing and illustrating for children. Her most recent books include: Bear and Squirrel are Friends…Yes, Really! A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster and Ten Rules of Being a Superhero, Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt. She is working on several other books at her studio in Ann Arbor, MI.

To learn more info and fun downloads, visit her website.


  1. I love the upside down squirrel on the cover of Bear and Squirrel Are Friends ...Yes Really! Congratulations on your new book Deb :)

  2. The cover really is adorable! Thanks for the chance to win a signed copy.

  3. The cover really is adorable! Thanks for the chance to win a signed copy.

  4. Thanks for the comments, Catherine & Kristi! You're now entered to win a *signed* copy of Deb's adorable new picture book!

  5. I like choices for Bear and Squirrel. The cover is very inviting!

  6. This looks like a super fun book to read. I love how the cover pulls you in immediately. Thanks!

  7. Move over, Officer Buckle and Gloria, for your new friends, Bear and Squirrel!

  8. Thanks for the comments! It's a real crowd-pleaser as a read-aloud. Kids will never guess the ending! Go, Bear & Squirrel!

  9. These all sound like great books. Many of which have been on my To be read" list for ages, but life happened a lot this year and didn't get to them.

    For other unlikely friend stories, I suggest "Mr. Brown's Fantastic Hat" by Ayano Imai [今井 綾野]
    (I Reviewed it last year for "Talking Animal Addicts")

    Another one is "Big Mean Mike" by Michelle Knudsen (illus. Scott Magoon)
    It's also a great pick in honor pf "Bullying Prevention Month" in October.
    (Check Out My Review on T.A.A./Watch Our Fan Trailer)

    There's also the "Bear and Mouse" series by Bonny Becker (illus. Kady MacDonald Denton)
    (Reviewed "A Library Book For Bear" for a "Back To School" theme "Weekly Readings")

    For our Euro [French Reading/Speaking] visitors to "The Crooked Little Cottage" If you love Bear and Mouse, you'll want to introduce your little ones to the ORIGINAL ursine-rodent duo, Ernest and Celestine, the books and recent film.

    The film is available for us yanks stateside (and in Canada) and it ROCKS (Special ordered my Blu-ray and it was worth it), but most of the books have been out of print, but are worth hunting down-a few books were reissued in English since the movie came out, but many, including the first one, have not. But Our Euro/French friends have it good as they're all still in print.

    For those with older tweens, there are some great unlikely friendships in James Howe's "The Misfits" (Celebrating it's 15th Anniversary in 2015) I highly recommend the unabridged full cast audiobook, where the main and supporting casts were played by real kids, an excellent production. I've been going through some rough times as a writer this year and this book reminded me why I do the work I do. It's also a great read/listen during the afforementioned "Bullying Prevention Month."

  10. Thanks for all of the comments and great book suggestions! Mr. Pig will now pick a winner out of his hat. "And the winner is . . . " <> . . . "Jennifer Rumberger!"

    Congrats, Jennifer! Please email a mailing address to