Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Every once in awhile, you set down the book you are reading and say "I would really like to meet that kid." (Hopefully, younger readers say that more often than adults.) After listening to Lenore Look's Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things, I think I'd enjoy meeting Alvin. Really, though, I'd like to meet Alvin's calm, patient and loving parents.

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.]

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