I did not have high hopes for Extra Ezra Makes and Extra-Special Friend. It looked goofy and off-putting. But when I got into it, despite the um… less than “all there” looking students at Ezra’s school, the story did capture my interest and the illustrations worked for the humor needed.
Kara Lareau has written a picture book about friendship, and what not to do. This idea is not new, but because Ezra is a special young person, the theme fits the sensibilities of today. Ezra is always EXTRA! He does it all to extreme. This is because he just gets excited and wants to show how much he loves and cares for his friends and family. But when Jane, the new girl, starts school, Ezra quickly realizes that she might look like she will be an extra-special friend, sometimes, people do not want to be friends. Or do they? After all, if you listen, maybe they will tell you what they need. And it might not be balloons and happy dances.
Vincent X. Kirsch has creative illustrations. The characters are simple (not simplistic) and just goofy. That is not a bad thing but might turn some people off. There is good color and the right number of details and accents the text.
But as said, this is not a new idea. Or even the only book of the season with this theme, as there is Oona and the Shark (book two) by Kelly Dipucchio and illustrated by Raissa Figueroa. Oona quickly learns that no amount of boldness, loudness, parties, and inventions she makes, will make Stanley the Shark want to be friends with her. Of course, when she gets super frustrated about her lack of success, she goes off to her special place at the bottom of the ocean to think in her quiet spot. And that is when she realizes that maybe she has the answer after all. Since she knows what Stanley doesn’t like, she probably can figure out what he does. And she knows the perfect invention for that. Again, this is a story about listening to others and learning their boundaries and needs. And the illustrations are over-the-top cute. There are rich colors and fun details. Everything is simple, not simplistic and I felt was stronger than the first book of Oona’s.
But wait! There’s more! Yes, one more friendship book is in the form of Capybara Is Friends with Everyone. Maddie Frost writes and illustrates this book of friendship and learning how to be a good friend. Capybara has 4,382 friends. But when he meets Sloth, can he make it 4,383? Well, it won’t be for a lack of trying, as that tenacious capybara will do anything and everything to make a new friend. Frost’s illustrations are cartoonish and terribly simplistic. And the idea of setting boundaries is reversed with instead of doing things for others and listening to what they need, you need to listen to what you need. Such as instead of taking the turtles all the way to their destination, only go halfway as you need to meet Sloth. It’s a quirky and wacky story.
All these books are really for all ages, but Ezra is slightly older than the other two, and Oona does aim itself at a medium aged group.