This heart-warming chapter book starts with Squirrel doing everything in her power — reaching from a tree, standing on tiptoe, swinging a stick, creating a very tall ladder — to pluck the moon out of the sky for Panda. Convinced that the moon is a ball, Panda wants to play with it.

They still don't have a ball with which to play at the end of these intense and rather zany attempts. But Panda notes that they "have something a lot better" — a friend.

The stories in this book, translated from Dutch, have much in common with friendship classics like Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte's Web, and Frog and Toad Are Friends. But even in storybooks, each friendship has charming quirks and adventures which make it stand out as one-of-a-kind. In the case of Panda and Squirrel, we get nine chapters' worth of delightfully original storytelling geared toward readers ages four through ten.

For instance, one day Panda roars out, "I don't want to be disturbed today!" Squirrel is the only one of the forest animals to figure out that this behavior was actually a clever ploy to get more visitors than ever, as it causes everyone checks on Panda. She is gratified to hear that "You can always disturb me, Squirrel."

Thé Tjong-Khing, a world-leading illustrator for children, does these stories justice with comic pictures full of action and feeling. One of our favorites is of Squirrel instructing a new-born duckling to walk: She announces "Follow me!" and struts away while looking back over her shoulder with a surprised expression as she sees the duckling immediately fall flat. The funny contrast between the two shows how little Squirrel knows about raising a duck. (And who can blame her?)

The stories toward the end of the book touch on more poignant topics: forgetfulness, trying to trick a friend into sticking around, homesickness. Ed Franck, one of Belgium's most important and innovative children's writers, approaches these with just as much sensitivity as the lighter topics. He leaves us wanting to keep our own friends close even while releasing them to be as fully themselves as Panda and Squirrel are.