Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look. (Grades 2-4.)
Alvin Ho is scared of many things. Thunder. Elevators. Shots. School. In fact, Alvin Ho is so afraid of school that he can't even talk at school. And therefore, he has no friends. Oh, his brother gives him advice on how to make friends. Alvin tries to win his classmates over at Show and Tell (but it doesn't work out for him because Alvin is all Show and no Tell). Alvin's parents even send him to therapy, which might not be particularly effective:
"A therapist is a smart person who wears glasses and can help you with your problems by asking a lot of questions instead of giving you shots, which is amazing. But a psycho, as everyone knows, is a crazy person in the movies that you never want to run into in real life. So a psychotherapist is a very smart crazy person that you should stay away from for your own good." (pp. 111-112)
Alvin Ho has many adventures including getting stuck in a tree, facing a substitute teacher, and getting the chicken pox. Through it all, he strives to be a gentleman and continues to try and make friends. After a brief dalliance with the class bully, he'll figure out how to make a true friend.
I loved Lenore Look's Ruby Lu books and I enjoyed this one as well. I was chuckling the whole way through and I love the illustrations done by LeUyen Pham. Alvin's a charming young man, despite his faults. He's not perfect. He messes up. He doesn't always make the right choices. But when he makes mistakes, he fesses up (with the appropriate amount of tears to soften the blow, of course).
And when he does mess up, his dad is there to support him. That's one of the things I loved about this book was the presence of a smart and involved father. When the Ho kids have chicken pox, Mr. Ho spends a couple of days at home so his wife can go in to work. He brings out his own beloved childhood toy and plays with Alvin. Alvin looks up to his dad, respects him, and strives to be like him.
I'd hand this one to fans of Clementine because of its humorous tone and slightly-mischievous-but-warm-hearted main character. I'd also hand it to fans of Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher, another chapter book about a paranoid grade-schooler.
Also reviewed by A Fuse #8 Production and appearing on the ACPL Mock Newbery list and the Anokaberry.