Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, etc.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances. Lenore Look. 2011. Random House. 198 pages.

Call me Alvin Ho. I was born scared and I am still scared. And this is my book of scary stories.

This is the fourth book in the Alvin Ho series for young readers. (These are illustrated chapter books for those just getting comfortable with reading novels.) The first three books in the series are: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary ThingsAlvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, and Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-Made Catastrophes.

In this Alvin Ho book, Alvin gets in a horrible, terrible predicament. The truth of the matter is that his grandfather's best friend, Charlie, has died. In a rare moment of bravery he volunteers to go with his grandfather to the funeral. Almost from that very second he regrets it. But his grandfather seems so genuinely touched, so very pleased at Alvin's response, that he is too scared to say he's scared. The next day, in another rare moment--on the bus, I believe--he blurts out that he's going to a funeral and going to see a dead body. He never once says who. At least not that I can recall. But everyone assumes that his grandfather has died. And they tell the teacher who tells the principal who tells just about every other person at the school. So in a matter of hours, everyone has come together for Alvin and wants to honor his grandfather. So much so that they want to have a memorial service at the school the next day. Poor, poor couldn't-speak-up-at-school-to-save-his-life Alvin, he finds himself unable to say hey wait, he's not dead!

So the novel is about that big misunderstanding...and about his fears of losing someone he loves--like his grandfather, like his father--to death.

I didn't really like this one. Not when comparing it with earlier books in the series. The third and fourth books in the series just haven't excited me. It's not even that this book is 'bad' or inappropriate. It's just that I'm not sure Alvin Ho is as charming as he used to be. To me.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Clementine and the Family Meeting

Clementine and the Family Meeting. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrations by Marla Frazee. 2011. Hyperion. 164 pages.

The very first thing Margaret said when she sat down next to me on the bus Monday was that I looked terrible.

The fifth Clementine novel may just be the best. (Or do I say that each time a new Clementine?!)  The first four novels in this wonderfully-delightful-must-read series are: Clementine (2006), The Talented Clementine (2007)Clementine's Letter (2008), Clementine, Friend of the Week (2010).

I love and adore Clementine. I do. I love her personality, love her narration, love her family, love her neighbors (Margaret and her older brother, Mitchell), love her friends, love her classmates, love her teachers, love her principal.

I love seeing Clementine with her family. I love seeing the interaction between family members. Her conversations with her mom, her conversations with her dad. And then there's Clementine's little brother. She calls him a different vegetable name every single time she refers to him. And most of the time, well, she thinks of him as a little bother. Someone not really worth having a relationship with. But things begin to change...perhaps a bit this fifth novel. For she begins to see, perhaps just a bit, that her brother is a person. There's a very, very sweet scene--though not mushy by any means--where her brother chooses HER to read to him his bedtime story. Another favorite scene of mine shows Clementine with her Dad at Home Depot, I believe. She wants a tool belt exactly like his.

Anyway, Clementine and the Family Meeting is a novel about changes, about how it's okay to have conflicting feelings about changes. That changes can bring a mix of emotions and feelings. You might be scared, worried, happy, sad, or even mad. Changes might make you more confused than anything else. There's going to be a BIG, BIG, BIG change in July for the family. Clementine will be getting a new brother or sister. And how does Clementine feel about the situation? Well, you'll just have to read and see for yourself!!!

But Clementine isn't just worried about one not-so-little thing. Clementine wouldn't be Clementine if there weren't more going on in her life to distract her. She's also worried about her science project and her science partner. About the rat, Eighteen, which was her and Waylan's project. Eighteen escaped and can't be found anywhere....

So I definitely recommend this one. If you've read the first few in the series, you probably don't need me to convince you how great the books are. If you haven't met Clementine yet, you should seek her out. But start at the beginning. That would probably be best!!!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers