Alvin loves all kinds of explosions, he's very interested in the history (and the ghosts) of his home town of Concord, Massachusetts (very hard to spell, he tells us); he's friendly and outgoing. Until he goes to school. There, Alvin needs his PDK (personal disaster kit), because he just can't say a word once he steps inside his second-grade classroom. His parents send him to a psychotherapist (emphasis on the psycho), but he finds he can't talk to her either. In the short episodes that make up the novel, there's no resolution to Alvin's problem, but I felt so secure in knowing how loved Alvin is by his mom and dad.
There is so much to love here:
- The neighborhood alpha boy, Pinky (not really a bully), tries to make a little money from a friend's case of chicken pox -- charging each kid for a little face time so that they can catch it too.
- When Alvin brings his dad's beloved Johnny Astro toy to school for show-and-tell, and the disaster than ensues. Watch a grown man cry!
- Alvin's dad loves to curse in Shakespeare and Alvin can do a pretty good imitation! "Grow unsightly warts, thou half-faced horn-beast!" he tells the psycho. Then Alvin and his dad have a heartwarming man-to-man chat about what it means to be a gentleman over ice cream.
An underage narrator, Everette Plen, reads Alvin Ho, and he does a fine job. He's youthful (obviously), but clearly knows a lot about reading aloud with expression without going overboard. He creates a few characters and performs them consistently. He recognizes Alvin's obvious intelligence as well as his sensitivity. Plen mines the humor, but doesn't insist on pointing it out (that's a skill that many adult readers don't have!). He even has the very challenging job of reading a glossary, and pulls it off.
The glossary includes pronunciation, so the poor kid says the glossary entry, says "pronounced" and then says it again. (Carl Yastrzemski. Pronounced "Ya-STREM-ski.") It wouldn't have hurt this audiobook to leave it off.
However, that's not a reason not to listen to this entirely engaging little book.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look
Narrated by Everette Plen
Listening Library, 2009. 2:03 (unabridged)
[Note: This is the first book in the two-book Alvin Ho Collection. The second title is Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters.]