I didn't get to finish two books this week (currently working on finishing Ender's Game), so I'm reviewing the one I did read and one a student recommended last year that I loved.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things
by Lenore Look
Alvin Ho is a second grader and a middle child. His brother, a fourth grader, is incredibly smart and reads the encyclopedia for fun. His sister, a two-year old, likes to dig holes in the front yard and Alvin, well, he has some issues. The book opens with Alvin trying to make himself taller before he starts school. His brother helps him hang from a tree to stretch himself out, but then gets called in the house for dinner, forgetting all about Alvin. Alvin ends up hanging upside down in the tree for an hour until his mom realizes he's not at the table.
Alvin also has trouble speaking at school. At home, he is fine, but as soon as he enters the classroom building, not a word escapes his lips. Flea, a girl who is his desk partner, creates a book about Alvin and how she's able to know what he wants because he talks with his eyes.
Alvin Ho has plenty of hilarious hijinks, such as all the neighbor kids lining up at the house of a student who has the chicken pox for a chance to touch him and contract the disease. The adults think the student has been quarantined, but two weeks later, a "mysterious" chicken pox outbreak shuts down the school. The genre reminds me of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and students who enjoy that book will also enjoy this series. Even though it plays to a slightly younger audience than Wimpy Kid, I will introduce my fifth graders to Alvin Ho in the fall.
by Mary Downing Hahn
This book came as a recommendation from one of my students last year, Jessica. She loves all of Mary Downing Hahn's ghost stories, but she told me that this was her favorite by far.
At the beginning of the summer, thirteen-year-old Ali finds a photograph in her attic. She recognizes her mom and her aunt, but the edge of the photograph is torn off revealing only the arm of another girl. When Ali asks her mom about the picture, her mom becomes hysterical and refuses to talk about it.
Ali's aunt, Dulcie, offers to take Ali to the family cabin for the summer if Ali promises to watch after her little cousin while Dulcie paints. Out by the lake, Ali and her cousin meet a girl named Sissy. Sissy is mean, but Ali's cousin is drawn to her. One day, Sissy convinces both of them to go out on the lake, an activity Dulcie has forbidden. The fog rolls in, the boat overturns and Ali's cousin nearly drowns.
What follows is a ghostly tale of the secret both Dulcie and Ali's mom are hiding. Who exactly is Sissy?
As a child, I loved reading ghost stories like this and reading this book reminded me of my love for this genre. There is nothing gory about this book, but it is both suspenseful and chilling. I would recommend this to any child who is a fan of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.