Alvin has a real problem -- performance anxiety disorder -- though this is only mentioned once. Mostly it's treated lightly and with humor, but also realistically -- Alvin doesn't suddenly get cured, and by the end of the book, while he has made (or accepted) a friend, he is still filled with fear. In life, Alvin would be very hard to get to know, but here, where we can hear both his inner and outer voice, he is a charmer.
In addition to Alvin's quirky personality, the book will delight readers in two other ways. The first is Alvin's loving and supportive, but also quirky, family, including an older brother who's reading his way through the encyclopedia, a younger sister who likes to dig holes, and especially his father, who is kind and understanding, and resorts to playing the piano when he's angry. The other is the mishmash cultural background. Alvin, a Chinese-American whose father delights in Shakespearean insults and old baseball cards, lives in Concord, Mass., home of the Minutemen, near the homes of Thoreau, Emerson, Alcott, and Hawthorne. These and many other diverse cultural references may send readers in search of more information about them. At the very least, they are sure to want to learn to swear Shakespeare-style.
From the Book:
I am not as big as Calvin, but I am bigger than Anibelly, who isn't a baby anymore but doesn't go to school yet. I am sort of nearly almost medium ... when I stand on tiptoe and stretch at the same time, I am finally almost visible in my class picture!
The fourth thing you should know about me is that I love Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, Concrete Man, Aquaman, King Henry V, and all the superheroes in the world. I know them from reading with my dad every night while my mom runs on the treadmill like a hamster on a wheel. My dad is a great reader for his age, which could be fifty or one hundred, it's hard to tell. He wears reading glasses and always puts one arm around me and his other arm around Anibelly and Calvin for support, on account of when you get to be that old, it is hard to do anything by yourself.It is a really good book.