Thursday, July 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Review of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" by Jeff Kinney

**Originally Posted on cj's bookshelf on September 9, 2011**

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Author: Jeff Kinney
Publisher: Abrams Books
Publication Date: 2007
Reading Level: Can you remember middle school?  Are you enduring middle school? You can (and should) read this book.

Synopsis: (from Goodreads) –
It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.

In book one of this debut series, Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion.

Author/illustrator Jeff Kinney recalls the growing pains of school life and introduces a new kind of hero who epitomizes the challenges of being a kid. As Greg says in his diary, “Just don’t expect me to be all ‘Dear Diary’ this and ‘Dear Diary’ that.” Luckily for us, what Greg Heffley says he won’t do and what he actually does are two very different things..

My Review:
I think I've annoyed everybody on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr about this today, but what better place to sing my praises of a children's book that is (A) Genuinely funny and (B) Actually popular with the younger set - than at my book review blog?  My only regret is that it took me this long to pick this book up.  It was easily one of the most-requested books at the library when I did my practicum this summer - but I guess I just assumed it was one of those disgusting fart-joke type books for these poor kids who only have "Spongebob Squarepants" to watch on TV anymore (oh, I how pine for the days of "Doug" and "Hey Arnold!")  The only reason (and it pains me to say this) I picked it up was that I'm taking a Children's Library Services class this semester and this was on the required reading list.  Along with a bunch of Newbery Award books - some of which are, quite frankly, boring as watching paint dry.  But I'll talk about those another time.

If I could have one wish, it's that my years of middle school could be permanently expunged from my memory.  Not the lessons I learned and growth I endured, just the memory of it.  While "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" doesn't do that, it makes it easier to think on any of those memories.

Awkward school dances? This book addresses it.  Popular kids that were just plain mean and hateful?  Covered in a frankly hilarious way (Rowley was made to _ _ _ the diseased cheese left on the basketball court).  Rude and obnoxious older siblings? Dealt with (but not in a mean-spirited way).  Spoiled baby siblings who get EVERYTHING they way?  Greg's got one of those too (and I defy anyone not to laugh whenever little Manny graces the doodled pages).

Despite the summary at the top of the page, there really isn't a concise plotline through Greg's diary JOURNAL.  It's more or less a mishmash of things that happen to Greg, though some things that are introduced early on come into play as the story progresses.  I would have to say it's "Napoleon Dynamite" in book form - deadpan humor with just the right amount of real-life relevancy that appeals to adult and kids.

While I'm not One Of Those People who pickets outside the library because "Captain Underpants" is on the shelf, I'm also not a fan of the cheap and easy over-the-top bathroom humor that's aimed at kids these days (oh, what do I mean "these days"? - that crap was happening when I was a kid).  While "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" does utilize a little bit of bathroom humor, it's limited to things that are actually plausible and that kids just on the cusp of puberty would probably be dealing with (sitting next to the weird, stinky kid on the first day of school and then being informed that's your permanent assigned seat for the year or being self-conscious that you haven't hit your growth spurt while other kids in your grade have to shave five times a day, just to name a few).

Oh, and I have to talk about the cartoons - you can't just look at the cartoon drawings without reading the scrawly narration, nor can you do without the cartoons and just read the writing.  They both go together and add to the humor.  It's both visual and literary, which makes it a great combination.

The next person that says the only way you can get kids to read a book is if there is an abundance of over-the-top bathroom humor, I will insist they read this book.  Everyone who endured middle school should read these books because they will just make you feel better about life.

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