My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Advance Reader’s Copy provided by the publisher
Howard Boward is a bully magnet. He’s familiar with all the ways of bullies; he’s small, and he’s nerdy. His name is easy to mangle, too, in a wide variety of ways. He makes light of this bullying, and yet it’s clear to the reader that he really just wants to know what it feels like to be popular, to be liked. Because, let’s face it: Howard Boward is lonely.
Howard’s descriptions of the cool table in the lunch room, the slights in the hall, that feeling you get when you’d heard your name re-designed yet again, that emptiness when eyes look right through you, though veiled in humor, really did speak to what some kids truly feel in middle school.
When Howard decides to create a friend, he doesn’t do things by halves, either. His new friend, Franklin is a delight! When he paves the way for friend connections Howard never dreamed of, Howard is lured by popularity to make some bad decisions. We cringe and sigh and shake our heads at some of the choices he makes, but really, all he wants is to be liked! In the end, the reader learns alongside Howard just what makes a true friend.
The author’s characterization of Franklin Stein is particularly skillful, and the story line is engaging throughout. Andre Jolicoeur’s delightful spot drawings enhance the experience. All in all, How to Make Friends and Monsters is a satisfying book with a great ending; it will delight middle grade readers with its less than perfect characters and their less than perfect schemes, and might even make them stop and think about how we treat those around us.
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