Nervous second-grader Alvin Ho digs deep to find the bravery to attend a funeral in this playful and poignant fourth offering in the series.
When Charlie, the best friend of his grandfather, dies, Alvin is desperate to console his gung-gung, volunteering to go to accompany him to the last rites without realizing he'll be in close proximity to a dead body. Once this occurs to him, however, he is terrified—his fear only compounded by his brother's concern that Charlie's death is a bad sign for their similarly aged grandfather. The formula that has worked so well in the earlier installments succeeds here again. Alvin's frenetic first-person voice as he puzzles it all out is engaging and real, often laugh-out-loud funny, and his family life is touching—sweet and frazzled and filled with endearing details like his father's use of Shakespearean curses when he's frustrated. Historical details of the Concord, Mass., setting abound, often comically portrayed due to Alvin’s tendency toward literalism. His eventual ability to contextualize and accept the death of someone he knew evolves naturally, and the madcap scenario that precedes it, exacerbated by Alvin’s anxiety-related inability to talk in school, is at once hilarious and heart-rending.
A fresh entry in what is overall an exceedingly enjoyable series; readers will cheer this latest. (Fiction. 7-10)