I read the first Alvin Ho book last year, as it was one of the finalists for the 2008 Middle Grade Cybils Award. It was a hoot in every way and it guaranteed that I would be picking up Lenore Look’s next Alvin adventure. The second in the series, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters is (dare I say it), even funnier than and every bit as clever and charming as its predecessor. I started reading it yesterday morning while sipping tea in my sunshiney living room and I kept on reading straight through until I finished it. It is a complete delight and it makes me hope for many more tales about the uproarious Alvin Ho.
Alvin is still pretty freaked out by the world in general at the beginning of this second book. This is why things do not look good when his dad proposes that they go on a father/son camping trip. His dad thinks it will give Alvin confidence, and make him less afraid of the woods and the great outdoors. Alvin thinks not so much. The novel follows Alvin as he tries to avoid the trip, prepare for the trip and survive the trip.
One of the many impressive things about this slim book is Lenore Look’s gift for characterization. She can reveal a great deal about her characters in a single phrase. For instance, Alvin describes Anibelly, his little baby sister, as “a stoplight in the middle of my life” because she’s always right there in the middle of things whenever he needs to just keep moving. The secondary characters – Alvin’s dad and his Uncle Dennis and Anibelly – all come through as complex and fully believable people in the story. The voice is outstanding, and while Alvin is certainly precocious, he’s convincing for his age. LeUyen Pham’s black and white illustrations add a great deal to the madcap feel of the narrative and bring the characters to life perfectly.
This is charming, clever and heartwarming hilarity perfect for precocious readers everywhere. (Adults included).
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Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters is published by Schwartz & Wade Books.