Monday, December 7, 2009

Alving Ho: Allergic to camping, hiking, and other natural disasters

Horn Book (September/October, 2009)
Fans of Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things (rev. 7/08) are treated to more of Alvin's "allergies." The not-so-intrepid second grader's fears this time involve the great (Alvin: "What's so great about it?") outdoors. When Alvin's dad takes him and little sister Anibelly on a camping trip in the woods, Alvin discovers there are things even scarier than school. Fortunately, he also learns that "a hero is someone who is willing to be scared." Look takes familiar kid traumas and troubles and ramps them up a notch, leaving them easily recognizable to young readers but a whole lot funnier. Hilarious bits include Alvin getting wrapped up Houdini-style and taped into a large box by Anibelly (who then blithely goes off with their grandfather, leaving Alvin alone and trapped) and a twenty-one-step list of "how to pitch a tent" that includes "17. Stand back and admire. 18. Go in and check it out! 19. Don't panic. 20. Find your way out of the collapsed tent." As in the first book, Pham's illustrations convey the story's humor and capture the pure joy of such things as lying in a sleeping bag under the stars, wearing a Batman ring, and coming back from a trip to "a yummy dinner of fried rice...[that] smelled like home and tasted like Chinese New Year." Readers can only hope that Alvin continues to describe in such wonderful detail his many allergic reactions.

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