Books should teach us things about ourselves. Secret Friendsis an honest account of how children react to bullying and the power of the peer group. If you have read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, Wonderby RJ Palacio or The Present Takers by Aiden Chambers then you might be ready to read Secret Friends but be warned this is another very sad and quite confronting book told in a very slim novel.
Rafaella does not fit in. Her appearance is different and her name sounds odd. From the first day she is teased and given the awful nick name of 'Earwig'. "I don't know what got into me. Perhaps it was the nervousness of starting a new school. Perhaps it was the way she looked down at me."
Lucy immediately regrets the nick name she has bestowed on Rafaella but it is now too late. Others quickly adopt the name and Rafaella becomes an outsider.The dilemma for Lucy is that she becomes friendly with Rafaella - even visiting her home and meeting her lovely family but Lucy knows this friendship needs to be kept a secret at school. "You were a social outcast if you were seen with Earwig and I didn't want to risk it."
After Christmas Rafaella does not return to school. Something truly dreadful has happened.
For younger children who want to explore this important theme of friendship and loyalty and bullying you might also look for Second Best Friend by Sally Rippin or Lady Long Legs by Jan Mark.
When I read a book I often think about who I will recommend it to. I first read Secret Friends over ten years ago and I regularly recommend it to mature girls who are looking for a short book with strong emotions - a sad book yes but also a book well worth reading.