Book Review: Alvin Ho by Lenore Look

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances
written by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-375-86831-3
Grades 2-5

Reviewed from purchased copy.


Everyone's favorite neurotic second grader is back, in the most touching Alvin Ho book to date. In this fourth book in the Alvin Ho series, Alvin is facing something truly scary: the idea that someone he loves might die. When Alvin's GungGung loses his best friend, Alvin (gulp) volunteers to go with him to the funeral.
In many books, the more the reader connects to the main character(s), the more they are likely to appreciate the book.  At least that is true in my experience, but not always.  Sometimes the author makes the character so real that you can sympathize even without having similar experiences.  Alvin Ho is one such character.  His fears and good intentions make him a very sympathetic character, even if one does not have numerous fears as does Alvin.  In this fourth book especially, it is easy to relate to Alvin.  Losing a loved one is difficult for anyone, adult or child.  Alvin's fears make him especially susceptible to  superstitions about death.   Even though the book deals with death, it does so in a sensitive way without losing the trademark humor that make these books enjoyable to read.

Some of the most humorous parts involve misconceptions about death and funerals that Alvin and his friends have.  For example, when Alvin finds out that his GungGung's friend has died, he tells his sister, "When you die, you're dead...Then you go to heaven on the bus."  Later, a friend tells him a wake (viewing) is "when you sit around and wait for the dead person to wake."  This reminds of how easy it is to get wrong ideas, that is one reason for getting an education.  Adults are not however, immune to 'wrong ideas,' they can be found everywhere. In addition, Alvin's situation becomes radically worse when his teacher and others at school assume the funeral Alvin is going to is his GungGung's and he doesn't correct it. This reminds me of my own tendency to make situations worse for myself without meaning to.

In the end, it is Alvin's weaknesses that make him such an easy character to relate to and when he succeeds at something, however small, the reader cheers for him.  This series is perfect for young readers who must face their own fears every day. Highly recommended.

The other books in the series are:
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-Made Catastrophes


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