Reviews for Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things

Booklist Reviews 2008 July #1
In the chapter-book universe of Judy Moody and Junie B. Jones it's hard to know what's more surprising about Alvin Ho: his Y chromosome, or his Chinese American heritage. In this book, Look, who has made a career of portraying Chinese American family life in picture books and chapter books, focuses less on cultural commonalities than on the idiosyncracies of Alvin's family (a dad fond of Shakespearean insults, a grandfather who sews), filling in the Chinese American backdrop exclusively through a small amount of Cantonese vocabulary and some food references. The book's lighthearted treatment of Alvin's unusual problem (mutism that kicks in only at school) doesn't seem entirely apt. Still, many children will sympathize with fearful Alvin, who hates his therapist and marvels at his descent from "farmer-warriors who haven't had a scaredy bone in their bodies since 714 AD." They'll also hope that the book's concluding, unexpected friendship will reap psychological benefits in a sequel. Pham's thickly brushed artwork matches the quirky characterizations stroke for stroke. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
This story acknowledges kids' troubles while lightening them in a respectful way. Fearful second grader Alvin Ho doesn't speak in school, though his voice works everywhere else. There's no miracle cure, but by story's end he's made a friend. Generously illustrated short chapters include laugh-out-loud descriptions of Alvin's attempt to grow taller and his brief membership in a not-so-tough neighborhood gang. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #4
Fearful second-grader Alvin Ho has never, not once, said a single word in school. His voice works at home, in the car, on the school bus. "But as soon as I get to school...I am as silent as a side of beef." Like the author's Ruby Lu chapter books (Ruby Lu, Brave and True; Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything, rev. 5/06), this one acknowledges kids' troubles while lightening them in a funny yet respectful way. For instance, Alvin plays cards with the psychotherapist he sees for his anxiety. When he realizes she's letting him win, he says his first words to her -- swear words he's learned from his dad. But they're Shakespearean swear words ("Sit thee on a spit, then eat my sneakers, thou droning beef-witted nut hook"), so she's impressed. There's no miracle cure for Alvin's missing voice, and the book nicely focuses more on his need for friends. At the end, he's still afraid of school, scary movies, etc., but he's made a friend -- and it's (yikes!) a girl. Generously illustrated short chapters include laugh-out-loud descriptions of Alvin's attempt to grow taller (his siblings leave him hanging from a tree branch where he remains forgotten until his mother spots his empty seat at dinner), his fateful decision to bring his dad's beloved childhood Johnny Astro toy for show-and-tell, and his brief membership in a not-so-tough neighborhood gang. Readers will hope Alvin has enough fears to fill yet another small but hugely amusing chapter book. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 June #2
Bright, energetic Alvin Ho is about to enter the second grade. The middle child in his close family, he idolizes his devoted, patient dad. He's a big superhero fan and he loves all things that explode. His enthusiasm, however, doesn't carry over to school--he's so petrified while there that he can't utter a single word: "But as soon as I get to school…I am as silent as a side of beef," he explains. In the vignettes that make up this exuberantly funny slice of Alvin's life, Look portrays the world as it would be viewed through the eyes of a wildly creative but undeniably neurotic kid. In his hometown of Concord, Mass., Alvin searches for friends, meets with a psychotherapist (who he supposes must be a "very smart crazy person" based on her job title) and gets himself into a variety of jams. A witty glossary and Pham's simple yet expressive line drawings perfectly complement this appealing story about the refreshingly original, endearing Alvin. (Fiction. 7-10) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 July #1

Alvin Ho, a Chinese-American second-grader with "so-so performance anxiety disorder," is afraid of just about everything: elevators, tunnels, kimchi, wasabi. But one thing is especially frightening: "I have never spoken a word in school," Alvin says, and he's mystified, "since I come from a long line of farmer-warriors who haven't had a scaredy bone in their bodies since 714 AD." By the end of the story, his fears are pretty much intact--but he's found a friend, made progress on his "How to Be a Gentleman" list and learned that joining a "gang" is for the birds. Look's (the Ruby Lu series) intuitive grasp of children's emotions is rivaled only by her flair for comic exaggeration, as in Alvin's description of his elderly piano teacher: "She bent like a question mark... and looked exactly like her pictures in The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, Deluxe Edition ." It's perfection that Alvin's friend turns out to be his once-despised desk buddy, Flea, a one-eyed girl with one leg longer than the other, "like a peg leg"; she prides herself on her understanding of him, and he enthusiastically thinks her eyepatch and legs make her look like a pirate. Ahoy! Ages 6-10. (July)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 August

Gr 2-4-- Second-grader Alvin Ho is determined to make friends, even though he is afraid of any number of things and can't talk--at all--in school. Episodic chapters feature events at home, at school, and in his Concord, MA, neighborhood. Everyday adventures include being left stranded by his siblings during stretching exercises that leave him upside down in a tree, being sent alone to the scary piano teacher's house, and deciding whether or not to hang out with the classroom bully. Although Look resists providing a tidy ending, readers will be sure that Alvin is on the right road when he surprises even himself by suddenly speaking to his psychotherapist. And they won't have to understand the Shakespearean curses that come out of his mouth to know that this time he has a good reason to be afraid. Whether they are fearful or brave, kids will smile at Alvin's scrapes and empathize with his concerns. Aspects of his Chinese-American background are seamlessly integrated into the story and add richness. The book is chock-full of well-placed illustrations. Martin Bridge, make room for Alvin Ho.--Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL

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