Howard Boward is a super genius, but super intelligence doesn't make you a lot of friends in middle school. The UPs (uber-populars) only notice him when they find him in the way or when he runs down the school halls in a unitard, and then they call him How-Weird.
His mom, disturbed Howard's friendlessness, gives him a book: How to Make Friends. At first Howard refuses to read it, but gives in out of curiosity. The book gives him a brilliant idea on how to make a friend.
After gathering equipment and an unwanted lab assistant, Howard builds himself a secret laboratory in his basement and sets to work. A few accidents later and he has his first friend (and monster) on his hands. He names his new friend Franklin Stein and takes him to school...
Franklin is almost instantly a hit with everyone, including the UPs. And it's not long before Howard soaks up the spotlight as well... But Franklin's secret origins won't stay hidden forever, and what happens when Howard no longer needs him?
This book is a delight in every way.
When I first got the book in the mail, I was lovestruck. "Perfect size! Perfect shape! Perfect color! Perfect cover! Perfect cover material!" For a while I was almost afraid to read it for fear that it would be awful and then the perfection of the physicality of the book would be such a waste.
But I was not disappointed.
Howard Boward is a brilliant little nerd with a streak of passive sarcasm, and he's probably one of my favorite main characters of all time. And Franklin... Franklin, Franklin, Franklin. He's the BEST. Oh my gosh he's just so freakin' (franklin?) adorable. I just want to hug him so super duper hard and then I want to smack Howard for being mean to him sometimes. But then not really, because I really love Howard too. Yeah.
Reynolds and Winnie are also superb supporting characters, not to mention the rest of Howard's family. How often do ALL of the supporting characters turn out perfectly? Very, very, very, very, very rarely. All of the characters are simply amazing and they make it an absolute joy to read.
If anyone dares to say that the plot is too crazy and farfetched I might have to punch them in the face, because that is hardly a big issue in this book. I think the plot is perfect. It's one of those great books with character development that isn't too inspirational and meaningful and painstaking, if you know what I mean. Howard goes through a lot and learns a lot of lessons and really does change for the better.
Plus, the illustrations are franklin adorable. Props to André Jolicoeur (um, his last name in French means "pretty heart." That might be the best thing EVER).
How To Make Friends and Monsters is such a perfect, delightful little book. The orange is so cheerful, the cover illustration so intriguing, the size so perfect, the material so comfortable in your hands. And then you open it up and don't put it down for a few hours until you're done, and you walk on sunshine for the rest of the day.
Ron Bates hasn't "helped" anyone else write anything yet, but I'll definitely be keeping an out. He's kind of hard to find too, but you can visit his website here. Though I recommend you read the book before watching the promotional video...
You might like this if you: love perfectly sized books; love perfect covers with perfect insides; love adorable illustrations; want a cute, short read; like awesome things; like The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; or if you have a hard time making friends yourself.