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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals and Other Fatal Circumstances. Written by Lenore Look and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2011. $17.99 ages 8 and up

"the good news about making a Horrific Big Promise (HBP) and having everyone say how proud they are of you was that it made a greater disturbance than getting busted for walking into town by ourselves. And greater disturbances, as everyone knows, will blast away any memory of the lesser disturbance as though with dynamite!"

Oh boy, Alvin Ho is back and he made for a couple hours of hilarity again this week. He remains neurotic and lovable, and slightly askew. Most things scare Alvin but this time, he comes face to face with mortality.

When Gunggung's best friend Charlie dies, he is hurt and in shock. Gunggung and Charlie had been friends since the old days:

"Charlie and my gunggung liked telling stories of the old days when they were building the Great Wall of China together and fighting off barbarian invaders. After that, they stuck around for a bunch of inventions: ice cream, shadow puppets, paper, tea, kites, playing cards, dominoes, matches, the compass. Imagine that! Finally, when China got boring, they moved to Boston where the excitement was just heating up."

As Gunggung deals with the reality of his friend's sudden death, Alvin must come to grips with the fact that death is a part of life and happens to everyone. It suddenly becomes a major concern for the second grader. Sympathizing with his grandfather's sadness, Alvin offers to attend the funeral with him. YIKES! What was he thinking?

As is usual with Alvin, one misunderstanding leads to another. He dreams of his grandfather's death, worries about his father's daredevil decision to fix the roof and is very concerned that he has made a promise to his grandfather that he is finding very hard to keep. Because of his mutism at school, he is unable to quell the rumor that it is his grandfather who has died. After a day at school where everyone is planning a memorial for him...his mother asks Alvin about his day. Alvin cannot speak a word. This is his take on his mom's reaction:

"My mom moved from upward dog into watchdog, which is a special bonus feature not on the video."

There are so many of Alvin's observations that I earmarked for a return look. I want to share just a few of them:

"I think my dad was swearing at himself in Shakespeare, which is the kind of cursing they used to do in the old days when they had time to really use bad language instead of four-lettered words."


"But the good thing about getting busted with Calvin is that he's up against the flames while I only get a little warm. It's like my dad is a roaring fire and we're a couple of marshmallows on a stick, and I'm the one in the back that doesn't even turn brown, while Calvin's the one in the front getting blistered."

and in the glossary that tries to explain some of Alvin's most important 'stuff':

"Mumbo jumbo - Spelling, math, history, girls. Anything that looks confusing, sounds confusing and will never make any sense no matter how loud you scream."

Too funny and a perfect early years readaloud!

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