As part of appreciating the versatile art of LeUyen Pham – who with her hubby Alex Puvilland imbued Friday’s post, Templar, with such swashbuckling energy – I thought I should keep a good thing going by adding a few more Pham-tabulously illustrated titles this bright new Monday. [Truth be told, I wouldn’t mind channeling some of that swashbuckling energy myself, ahem!]
Welcome back to Concord, Massachusetts, the literary birthplace for many – including darling Alvin Ho, introduced in Book 1: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things. In spite of … or because of … the many challenges this brave young man faces – most especially he seems unable to speak out loud in school, not to mention being afraid of just about everything – Alvin is one imaginative hero. Armed with his PDK (Personal Disaster Kit), and well supported (whether he wants back-up or not!) by his family (little sister Anibelly is beyond delightful) and friends (Flea with her self-described “‘irregular arms or legs'” is the ultimate example of total girl power!), Alvin is getting through second grade with courage he sometimes forgets he has!
In Book 2, Alvin and Anibelly discover the many joys of camping, even if their only weekend catch is their shocked (upside-down) father. In Book 3, Alvin realizes just in time that getting the ‘right’ birthday invitation doesn’t always mean that’s the ‘right’ party to attend. In Book 4, Alvin’s inability to speak in school causes a life-and-death misunderstanding as he worries about how he will bring himself to attend his grandfather’s friend’s funeral. And, in the latest Book 5 (out this spring), Alvin needs to transform his usual PDK into a Pregnancy Disaster Kit as he just might be in the family way along with his baby-full mother!
Author Lenore Look manages to balance the neverending humor with well-woven moments of reality. As we giggle and laugh with Alvin, Look gently reminds us that children can have serious issues; Alvin sees a counselor regularly to face his fears (and hopefully find his voice). She carefully adds glimpses of the world beyond Alvin’s limited comfort zone by including a bit of history in each installment – from the American Revolution to Native Americans to even the tragic 2010 Haiti earthquake. And, of course, in every volume, LeUyen Pham whimsically gives Alvin his joy, his shock, his worry, his frustrations, his adoration, his appreciation … his reactions are perpetually wondrous under Pham’s pen. Here’s selfishly hoping that this unique fear factor continues for many seasons to come …!!
Readers: Middle Grade