Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shelf Life [kids]

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night by Lenore Look, 175 pages.
Poor Alvin Ho! In previous books he’s been “allergic to” (i.e.  frightened by) many things:  girls, school, science projects, camping trips, birthday parties and various other scary things.  Now, in the fifth book of the series, Alvin Ho; Allergic to Babies, Burglars and Other Bumps in the Night, he comes face-to-face with the biggest, most fearsome challenge yet in his short seven-year life:  a new baby in his family!
That’s right – Alvin’s mother is going to have another baby.  Alvin’s parents and siblings are delighted, which confuses Alvin.  Don’t they realize what a new baby means?  It could be another girl! Even if Alvin escapes having another sister, there will be stinky diapers to change – lots of them!  Babies make other messes too ... and lots of noise ... and does anyone in the family realize that babies are non-returnable? 
As if a new baby isn’t enough for Alvin to cope with, a burglar has been reported in the neighbourhood and his dad is away on a week-long business trip.
The news of a burglar makes Alvin (who is, admittedly, more than slightly phobic) very nervous, but for this he can take some action.  He dons his “Firecracker Man” costume, attempts to give the family dog some anti-burglar training, and constructs a burglar trap with his older brother, Calvin.
However, a new baby is an entirely different problem....
Lenore Look’s hilarious books about Alvin can be compared to Melanie Watt’s picture books about Scaredy Squirrel, a neurotic rodent who worries about everything.  The Alvin chapter books would be fun choices to read aloud as a family, especially as they will be enjoyed by many children who cannot yet read chapter books for themselves.

** Recommended interest level: ages 6 to 9 years of age.

How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying, by Scott Starkey, 258 pages.
Pint-size Rodney Rathbone’s first encounter with Josh, the meanest bully in Rodney’s new school, is on the school bus on the first day of class.  Josh leaves no doubt in Rodney’s mind that he is “out to get him”.  Josh, it appears, hates new kids. 
When Rodney is confronted by Josh after school, Rodney thinks that he’s “toast”, but it isn’t to be.  In a quirky turn of events, Josh is hit on the head by a stray baseball – a ball which no one except Rodney sees.  Everyone, including Josh, believes that Rodney has knocked Josh down. 
Rodney instantly becomes known throughout the school as a superhero.   He insists that he’s just lucky, but no one believes him.
Now Rodney has trouble of a different sort.  He soon discovers that keeping his new reputation as a “tough guy” is much more difficult than attaining it, however accidentally, in the first place.  An added complication is that the meanest teacher in the school, Ms Lutzkraut, is being especially vindictive to Rodney for mispronouncing her name on the first day of school.

Readers will find themselves cheering for Rodney in this humorous, light-hearted story about school and bullying.  
Scott Starkey is an elementary school teacher whose keen understanding of students and their insecurities is evident in his debut novel.
** Recommended for ages 8 to 11 years.

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on July 11, 2013. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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