What my mind can conceive, I can achieve.
The above is a paraphrased quotation from Earl Nightingale (or Napoleon, depending on whom you ask) that was taken by young Alvin Fernald as his motto.
Alvin is the eleven-year-old protagonist from a series of humourous and madcap children's books by Clifford B. Hicks. For the most part, Alvin is a normal kid, but he's an inventor. While some of his inventions--such as the flying machine built by adding wings to a bicycle--don't work particularly well, they always make for a nice adventure. He also has a habit of discovering mysteries and foiling criminals.
Alvin's best friend is athletic Wilfred "Shoie" Shoemaker, and they're often accompanied by his younger sister Daphne, colloquially referred to as 'the Pest'. These two characters tend to be dragged along in Alvin's adventures. (Well, Shoie is dragged--the Pest has to convince them to let her participate much of the time.)
Though the stories often end up with criminals being defeated, they're not mysteries so much as madcap adventures. Personally, I would consider the series most akin to the fabulous The Mad Scientists' Club books by Bertrand R. Brinley, the Henry Reed series by Keith Robertson, and by a bigger stretch The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald, and the Danny Dunn series by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams.
There are nine Alvin books of which I'm aware:
- The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald (1960)
- Sadly, I don't have this book, but my impression is that it's along the same lines as The Wacky World of Alvin Fernald, described below. Just him and his inventions, rather than some over-arching plot.
- Alvin's Secret Code (1963)
- With the help of his friend Shoie and sister 'the Pest', Alvin learns all about secret codes (becoming a 'criptogruffer'), discovers some treasure, and--being Alvin--foils a criminal.
- Alvin Fernald, Foreign Trader (1966)
- Alvin and his friends win a trip to Europe, where he learns that foreign trade isn't boring, especially if you run across a spy in need of foiling.
- Alvin Fernald, Superweasel (1974)
- Another book I don't have. Herein, Alvin exposes the biggest polluter in town.
- Apparently, Jimmy Carter's daughter told People Magazine that this was her favourite book back in 1978.
- Alvin Fernald, TV Anchorman (1980)
- Alvin's antics have made him a notorious figure in town, and he's invited onto the 'Spotlight' bit on the local news station. There, when the job of newscaster is suggested to Alvin for when he grows up, Alvin comments that it can't be very hard or exciting. 'All you do is read from a piece of paper, or sit around and ask dumb questions'. The newsman offers him a five minute spot the next week, which Alvin accepts. From there, it takes off, and Alvin ends up with a nationally-broadcast news bit and finishes not by foiling some criminals, but by finding treasure and clearing a non-criminals name. He also learns that newscasting is not an easy job. (Yeah, right. Anyone can read stupid questions off a piece of paper.)
- Alvin Fernald, Master of a Thousand Disguises (1986)
- I'm rather shocked by the number of Fernald books I was unaware of prior to starting this writeup. But according to School Library Journal, Alvin foil some criminals and return stolen property to the rightful owner. One Amazon.com review pegs it as a near-copy of Alvin's Secret Code.
- Alvin Fernald Mayor for a Day
- Three guesses what happens here. No, make it two guesses. Alvin wins the class contest to become mayor for a day, and is encouraged to follow up on his campaign promises.
- Alvin Fernald, Mayor for a Day: A Juvenile Play in Two Acts
- Obviously, they turned the book into a play.
- Alvin's Swap Shop
- Alvin puts his enormous intellect to good economic use when he trades an ant from the sidewalk (it can perform tricks!) for a dead spider collection. That he trades for something else, and the ball really gets rolling shortly. He rents an empty gas station and sets up shop.
- In addition to trading stuff for more stuff, Alvin discovers a run-away boy who's being chased by a bad guy. They hide the boy and then foils the bad guy quite magnificently.
- The Wacky World of Alvin Fernald
- Five fabulous short stories.
- The first story consists merely of him pondering various questions with his friends: how to create flying plants, why mirrors reverse left and right, but not up and down, and so on. Nothing actually happens. More of an introduction to just who Alvin , Shoie, and the Pest are.
- The second story is a very nice one. April Fool's Day is a big event in Riverton, and every year, the kids do something big. This year, Alvin comes up with a way to make a very big mess (though a very clean one).
- In the third story, Alvin adds wings to his bike and soars through the skies. *whump*
- In the fourth story, Alvin makes a sculpture using some modeling clay. (First you knead the clay. 'Of course you need the clay. You can't very well sculpt without it'.)
- In the fifth story, Alvin invents a man. From the police description: 'Our subject is approximately 45 years old. He is a male Caucasian, 6 feet 2 inches, weighs 162. He wears a bright orange wig. He may be wearing a blue suit, size 42, a size 16 1/2 shirt with a 44 sleeve. Size 12D shoes. He is certain to be wearing a red tie because that's all he owns.' It goes on for several paragraphs, despite the man not actually existing.
http://www.alvinfernald.com/ in a good reference for the material, operated, I believe, by Clifford Hicks' son.