Alvin Ho:Allergic to the Great Wall by Lenore Look

Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions by Lenore Look
Illustrations by LeUyen Pham
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Release Date: August 5, 2014

Alvin Ho is traveling with his family to China. However, when you are the kind of kid who fears everything, China can seem like a very scary place. First there is the 16-hour plane ride, then there's things like eating lunch food for breakfast, kung-fu lessons, acupuncture, the Great Wall of China, and a lost passport.

Apparently, this is the sixth book in the Alvin Ho series and I simply cannot believe I have not read them before. Alvin is a little boy with a lot of fears. He is terrified of almost everything, and although sometimes I wished the parents would be a little more understanding of their son who clearly has some OCD tendencies and needs a lot of reassuring, I found he and his family to be rather cute and endearing. Alvin is not afraid to voice his fears and his family is very patient with him.

This is one of those books that I was a little curious about the intended target audience. Alvin is seven-years-old. The obvious reading level is definitely above second grade, which means that the children reading this story are already older than the main character. When I worked at a bookstore, we called these kind of books "bridger books". Books that were right in-between chapter books and middle grade. Easier than Harry Potter and harder than Junie B. Jones. There are a couple of series like this: Clementine, Ramona Quimby, Judy Moody. The key to defining these books really is narrative voice and Alvin nestles itself firmly into the middle-grade categorization despite the youth of the main protagonist. Seeing as there are plenty of illustrations, I would say that this one would be good to read aloud to that second grader who might not be ready to read the series on their own.

And of course we must talk about the fact that this is a story about an Asian American boy and his family. Not to mention his multi-ethnic cousins who are part white and part Asian. This is a rarity among rarities in the middle-grade world, not to mention literature in general. I don't want to make it sound like they don't exist, but they are so few and far between. For parents, teachers, and librarians who are looking for more books featuring Asian-Americans kids then this it it. Ethnicity aside, I think many kids will enjoy this book, although I do recommend starting with book one. I am pretty sure it makes more sense that way.