Title: The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin FernaldThe Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald
Author: Clifford B. Hicks
Illustrator: Charles Geer
Pages: 116
Recommended Ages: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★★

Alvin Fernald. What a cute name…

The Story.

You can always tell when Alvin’s cooking up a new invention. His eyes get sort of glassy looking and he doesn’t eat as much as usual for lunch. He begins to collect random items from different parts of the house – a clothespin here, a broom handle there – and before long he has produced another masterful invention. What a brain that boy has!

But when a mishap with one of his inventions leads Alvin and his friend, Shoie to the knowledge that their neighbor, Mrs. Huntley is being held captive in her home by two unknown intruders, Alvin knows that he must bend all of his inventing powers towards her release. But will he produce a fantastic new invention in time?

Discussion.

When I started reading The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald, I happened to look in the front cover and notice when I purchased it – March 30, 2013. It took me a whole year to get around to reading this short, easy, kids book. Why? Well, because I expected it to be cheesy, zany, and riddled with sarcasm.

If nothing else, reading The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald should remind me how silly it is to judge a book by its description – or even by a cursory glance through it.

Far from being “zany”, The Marvelous Inventions was actually one of the funnest, cutest kids books I’ve read in a while. Of course, my heart was stolen right from the moment when I learned that Alvin and Shoie called each other “old bean”, a term which I regularly apply to my family and close friends. This after Alvin accidentally breaks a mirror in Shoie’s room, very nearly getting Shoie in big trouble.

“Boy, you should see what you did to my mirror.”

“Sorry, old bean.”

“You’re forgiven, old man.”

“Quite so, old bean.”

“Let’s get on with our plans, old man.”

“Quite so, beans,” said the Pest.

“Ssssh!” said Alvin.” [pg. 32]

Furthermore, rather than spending his time inventing pointless creations, each of Alvin’s inventions in this story had as its goal either to be a time-saver, or to help rescue Mrs. Huntley.

Mrs. Huntley lives by herself in an old home which Alvin and Co. describe as being possibly haunted, an idea which Alvin descries. Mrs. Huntley also holds to the belief that her dead husband has returned in the form of a bird, so she is always careful to leave out food for the birds which nest in her yard.

Alvin, Shoie, and his little sister Daphne (whom he calls the “Pest” – more on that in a second) initially go into Mrs. Huntley’s yard to retrieve a paper Alvin misthrew on his paper route, despite the fact that his parents have forbidden him to go into the yard. When they discover Mrs. Huntley’s plight, they weigh the pros and cons and decide to visit several more times and try to capture the two men on their own. In the end, the parents discover the children’s disobedience, but decide not to punish them due to the immense courage they displayed in rescuing Mrs. Huntley.

At the beginning of the story, Alvin explains how he is continuously trailed by his little sister Daphne, who practically worships him. He explains that his nickname for her (the Pest) isn’t so much because he dislikes her, but more because she often gets in his way by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Throughout the course of the story, Alvin includes the Pest in his plans more and more until, by the end, he includes her as a matter of course. In the last chapter, a newspaper reporter overhears Alvin calling her by her nickname, whereupon he asks.

“Is that what you call her? The pest?”

Alvin paused for just a moment, looking down at his sister’s upturned face. Her golden curls were shining in the sunlight. “No,” he said. “No, this is my sister Daphne.”

The Pest threw her arms around him and buried her face in his shirt.” [pg. 113]

Such a cute sibling moment. :)

Mild euphemisms – gosh, darn, and gee – are used occasionally.

A few lies are told, one is obviously disbelieved, and another is played for humor.

Conclusion. Perhaps not the first book to read, but a fun one.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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