Alvin is afraid of everything and everyone except for explosions and when he is at home disguised as Firecracker Man. Entering second grade, Alvin carries around his own Personal Disaster Kit (PDK) with instructions and gadgets to survive. He even refuses to speak at school, which is unfortunate since his two goals in life are to be a gentleman and to make new friends. Flea, a girl with one eye and a peg leg, has always been kind to Alvin and tries to help him navigate the social scene of second grade. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things is a hilarious story about gaining confidence and growing up. Appropriate for first to fourth graders, especially those just getting into chapter books, children can laugh along as Alvin and his classmates pay money to catch chicken pox from Jules (no chickens involved), squirm as Alvin breaks his dad’s favorite childhood toy, and debate what it means to be a part of a group versus being a gentleman. I appreciate the diversity in this title—Alvin is Chinese-American—which Look subtly incorporates into the story. There is no stigmatization of Alvin crying all of the time and seeing a therapist or Flea having physical deformities. The illustrations are simple and similar to the Origami Yoda series. My favorite phrases are when dad curses in rogue Shakespearean, and Alvin uses expressions like, “It really fried my rice.” I will add Alvin Ho to my second grade recommendation list with Junie B. Jones and the Weird School series.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look and illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2008)