Module 7 – The Penderwicks & Alvin Ho

This module is over realistic fiction. I choose one with female main characters and one with a male main character to see the differences and similarities between the two.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy


The Penderwicks are in need of a vacation home for the summer, what the end up with is an adventure. The four sisters encounter a handsome young gardener named Cagney, a curious little boy named Jeffry, Jeffry’s mother Mrs. Tifton, and her horrible fiance Dexter. After befriending Jeffry, the girls find out that Dexter wishes to send Jeffry to military school after the wedding. The story ends with everyone growing closer as they conquer their fears and speak their minds.


This book was very whimsical for a realistic fiction. The writing style was reminiscent of an older book, like The Chronicles of Narnia. The character development was strong among the Penderwick sisters, but seemed to be lacking in a few of the other characters. Overall it was a strong and entertaining book.

Professional Review:

The Penderwicks is a contemporary tale with pitch-perfect writing and irresistible characters, it exudes a wholesome 1950s innocence. In fact, compared to today’s increasingly edgy children’s books, The Penderwicks is so retro, it’s almost radical” (Margolis 2006).


This would be a good book to bring out in a Creative Writing program. You could have the students read the first chapter and do an exercise where they must mimic the writing style of the author.


Birdsall, J. (2005). The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. New York: Knopf.

Margolis, R. (2006). Jeanne Birdsall’s National Book Award-winner is so retro it’s almost radical. School Library Journal Online. Retreived from

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things


Alvin is afraid of everything, but when he’s at home he can be his alter ego, the superhero Firecracker Man. He goes through school not saying a word, which lands him at a therapist. The book ends with Alvin starting an unexpected friendship and brings hope to shy kids everywhere.


I thought this book did a great job of incorporating American-Chinese culture into the book, which I was worried about when I looked at the cover. There is a line between being exclusionary because of too much authenticity or, conversely, because of too many stereotypes. I also couldn’t help but love Alvin who just needed a little push to be more outgoing.

Professional Review:

“Somehow Look has tapped into the boy brain and gone deeper into their insecurities, hopes, and fears than most other authors for this age range. .. At one point Alvin is left hanging from a tree while his family bakes some cookies. He’s only missed when his mother notices his empty plate at dinner. It’s vaguely traumatic, but not all that unbelievable within the context of the tale” (Bird 2008).

When I read that part of the book, I remembered when I got left behind at the mall as a child and Alvin’s emotions felt very real.


I would use this book in a reluctant readers display. Another idea would be to use this book in a book club for immigrants and their elemtray age kids. The parents would learn to read alongside with the kids and they could enjoy a story about family’s like theirs.


Bird, E. (2008) Review of the Day – Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look.  School Library Journal Online.  Retrieved from

Look, L. (2008). Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things. New York: Schwartz & Wade


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