HELPER AND HELPER by Joy Cowley (Gecko Press, $23)

They're back! For those who might not get to enjoy reading Cowley's wry and witty series, this is the third book about the (mis)adventures of two unlikely friends: a snake and a lizard who live deep in the desert.

The book arrived in our home not a moment too soon. Miss Seven's best friend forever is leaving Auckland so we've been thinking and talking a lot lately about what makes a good friend. Given the news, she also needed cheering up and Helper and Helper certainly helped bring her smiles back.

In this, and her previous Snake and Lizard books, Cowley gently and humorously explores what's needed for a successful relationship and that while things in common are good, sometimes it's the differences and alternate ways of looking at things that make for enduring friendships.

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Snake and Lizard disagree; sometimes they bicker over seemingly small matters and go hours without talking to one another. But they always take the time to reflect on what their bond means and find a way to work things out.

Yes, there are lessons to be learned here but it never feels like a lecture -- partly because of the understated, but always present, humour and partly because sometimes the stories take unexpected turns.

Wait till you hear about what happens when Lizard's relatives overstay their welcome; it's certainly an outcome to spark discussion.

Cowley's stories are complemented by Gavin Bishop's deftly drawn illustrations, which make the book a perfect package.

We read Helper and Helper just before Tui Street Tales and it's an absolute pleasure to see New Zealand authors continuing to produce top-quality books for younger readers.

Children's author Joy Cowley. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Children's author Joy Cowley. Photo / Mark Mitchell