Sunday, January 19, 2014

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things (Alvin Ho #1) by Lenore Look, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

I work in Asia. I can offer girls, Katie Woo, Ruby Lu, Katie Kazoo, Clementine, Starring Jules, "Call me Oklahoma," Marty Mcguire, Judy Moody, Junie B. Jones... to name a few, but boys? They get about half or maybe a third of the girl offerings in Stink, Roscoe Riley, Julian, Horrible Harry, and "The Year of Billy Miller." Add Asian American, Alvin Ho, to that boy list. He's a second grader with a great imagination and great fears. When he goes to school he can't talk. When he's scared he can't talk. He has a personal disaster kit (PDK) that helps him get through the uncertainties of life and an older brother who doles out advice on how to make friends. He goes to a therapist for the selective mute issue. Like most young kids, Alvin can't quite sort through advice properly and he makes some innocent but costly mistakes trying to enact them.

This gives Alvin an authentic voice. He plays games like a second grader from being a superheroe to building volcanoes. He's having a hard time making friends at school and when he finally does from the advice of a brother, he isn't sure he likes being a part of "the gang." There is a nice message tucked in the action regarding following the crowd and when people are making decisions that actually hurt others. Alvin must decide whether to stand up to a bully or not. This is a subtle bully. He doesn't do super nasty things, he just manipulates people to serve his own interests not really caring about others. The older reader sees the bully's insecurities while Alvin just sees someone he doesn't want to be friends with.  Alvin realizes that his other friend, who is a girl with an eye patch and short leg, is actually a lot more fun to hang out with than "the gang."

The author goes inside Alvin's head and has him think thoughts that a second grader wouldn't be able to articulate but what comes out of his mouth is age-appropriate for the most part. I appreciate a book that tosses in humor for me, the adult; however even though the cursing in Shakespeare was unrealistic, I laughed hard. A second-grader wouldn't be able to pronounce half those words much less remember them. I might have been able to buy it if the author had use a few but the therapist episode had too many curses. In the end, I didn't care and I don't think kids will either. It's a terrific way to introduce one of the greatest English dramatists in a kid-friendly way. Maybe in high school a kid will quote Shakespeare's curses to his English teacher then blame it on Alvin Ho. Toss in the mix that Alvin knows how to use tears with adults when he's in trouble and loves it when his dad calls him "Son" making him feel important and you have a clear picture of a second-grader with all his insecurities, joys, and playfulness. This book has been popular with our grade 3-5 students and now I see why.

Fountas and Pinnell Service: Q
Reading level 3.8

4 Smileys

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