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Children's Fiction General

Friend or Foe?

by (author) John Sobol

illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Oct 2016
General, Friendship, Imagination & Play
Recommended Age
4 to 18
Recommended Grade
p to 12
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2016
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


A lonely mouse gazes up at the cat in the palace tower next door. Determined to find out if he is a friend, he bravely makes his way into the palace …

"A lonely mouse lived in a small house beside a great palace. In the great palace lived a cat."

Each night the mouse gazes up at the cat in the palace tower. Is the cat my friend? he wonders. Determined to find out, he bravely makes his way into the palace through a tiny hole and climbs all the way up to the tower, where the cat sits on the windowsill.

"Hello, are you friend or foe?" he squeaks.

This simple story by John Sobol has a surprising outcome, giving young readers a chance to draw their own conclusions. It is perfectly complemented by Dasha Tolstikova’s subtle yet striking illustrations.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.

With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).

Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.

About the authors

JOHN SOBOL is an author, musician and poet who has performed at festivals and clubs in a dozen countries. His first picture book, Friend or Foe (illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova), was described in Brain Pickings as “a charming modern-day fable.” He has toured an acclaimed one-man show called Two Million Years of Technology, and he has written many popular TV shows for children, including Pippi Longstocking and Under the Umbrella Tree. John is a father and a feminist. He lives in Ottawa.


John Sobol's profile page

Dasha Tolstikova is the author and illustrator of the graphic memoir A Year Without Mom, which was a Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Book of the Year, a USBBY Outstanding International Books selection, and received four starred reviews. Dasha has illustrated several picture books, including Violet and the Woof by Rebecca Grabill, Friend or Foe? by John Sobol and The Jacket by Kirsten Hall. Her illustrations have also appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Bad Chair is the first picture book Dasha has written and illustrated.

Dasha Tolstikova's profile page


  • Commended, School Library Journal Best Picture Books

Editorial Reviews

The story is stark and ambiguous … It’s this understatedness that lets the book’s sly humour land.

The Globe and Mail

Sobol's original and engaging story is perfectly complemented by Dasha Tolstikova's subtle yet striking illustrations. Beautifully produced, exceptionally entertaining.

Midwest Book Review

A charming modern-day fable, without a simplistic moral, about what makes for and what undoes the sense of otherness.

Brain Pickings

With quiet artwork and a story that has a fable-like quality to it, this title presents a unique addition to the picture book field.

Resource Links

A quiet, thoughtful narrative for all readers who like to wonder.

Kirkus Reviews

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