Walter Had a Best Friend by Deborah Underwood

Hello, people. Have you ever had a best friend…until you didn’t?

Deborah Underwood and Sergio Ruzzier explore this experience in their heartfelt book Walter Had a Best Friend.

Behold the opening spreads:

This delightful opening establishes the friendship between Walter and Xavier.

Then something occurs. And that something occurs slowly…and quietly. We discover that these friends are drifting apart, and a new character has arrived on the scene. Penelope.

With Penelope around, Walter finds himself no longer having a best friend. This isn’t the result of a big fight or some miscommunication. It just…happens.

While there is a lot to appreciate in this book, my favorite part is its use of effective pacing. Underwood does a lovely job of letting the reader know that this friendship is gradually evaporating over time. She never flat out tells the reader this information. She invites the reader figure it out through the book’s pacing.

How does Underwood do this? Well, three things stuck out to me as I read this book.

  1. Spare text. Having just a few words on each spread makes the reader slow down and take in the situation.
  2. Just the right punctuation. The use of well-placed ellipses makes the reader slow down and process the situation all the more.
  3. Repetition of some key words and phrases. These echoes give the text a special lyrical feel that grounds the story and dissuades the reader from rushing through the pages.

Ruzzier’s art also adds to the book’s pacing. We see the effects of the gradual loss of a friendship–as well as the later hopefulness of a new friendship–through Walter’s expressions and body language.

Have YOU been taken by a book’s especially effective pacing? If so, please share in the comments below!

Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. Great look at pacing in this wonderful book, Tammi!

  2. Great post!

    Several days ago I typed out this manuscript as a mentor text to try to figure out HOW Deborah Underwood pulled off this gentle, yet magnificent story. You nailed it. It’s the pacing. Thanks, Tammi!

    Another book with brilliant pacing is WISHES by Muon Thi Van (illustrated by Victo Ngai)

  3. What a sweet book. Sometimes friends aren’t forever and that’s ok., but still, a tender topic.

  4. This is a perfect picture book…sweet, gentle, and downright adorable!

  5. I adore this book! And you nailed it, Tammi…it’s the pacing!! Thank you for sharing this beautiful book.

  6. I have been taken in by pacing. One of my fav’s that’s really old but holds up today is Imogene’s Antlers by David Small

  7. Will keep my eye out for this book. Thanks, Tammi!

  8. Awww…what a bittersweet sounding story. And such beautiful illustrations. I’m going to check this out from the library! Thanks for sharing.

  9. This looks beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Ah, we can all relate to this. Looks lovely. Thanks Tammi. I’ve been a fan of Deborah’s PBs like yours since the beginning.

  11. Michael Henriksen

    I appreciate your insightful analysis of this endearing story by the ever-awesome Deborah Underwood!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *