I’ve been hearing so much about this book in the last year, and for some reason I forgot that my cousin Dianne gave me a copy of this book last Christmas, as it got buried in the TBR pile. Thankfully I managed to dig it out sometime before the flood so it didn’t get wet or join the rubble of books that were brought upstairs for safety against the flood which I am still in the process of reshelving.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (#143 for 2009) caught my eye when I first saw it on the bookstore shelf; the words “a novel in cartoons” jumped out at me and I just knew I had to read the book.
A New York Times bestseller, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid is actually the journal (he doesn’t want to call it a diary) of middle-schooler Greg Heffley.
Greg is your average kid — smart but cheeky (when he can get away with it), a talented comic artist, a video game addict, and yes, a wimp, frequently consumed by the desire to get transplanted into a different family and become the most popular kid in school.
The journal chronicles Greg’s adventures (and misadventures) as he enters 7th grade, involving a lot of harebrained schemes that more often than not work against him.
I liked the book because it is light reading, guaranteed to make you laugh whenever Greg gets into crazy situations, and typically, the way his luck is going, his shenanigans tend to backfire against him, so you’re laughing throughout the book.
The supporting cast helps a lot, as the other characters are funny too, starting with Greg’s best friend Rowley, who’s not the brightest bulb in the box, but is loyal to Greg even though Greg underhandedly makes fun of him… at least until the comic book incident.
Greg’s wacky family is also a hoot, starting with his fitness-obsessed dad; his doting mom; his older brother Rodrick, who takes every opportunity to make fun of him; and little brother Manny, the apple of his parents’ eyes.
I also especially like the school thugs, who are drawn like hoodlums, although that’s probably Greg’s imagination working overtime already.
Speaking of drawings, it is Greg’s comics that make the book laugh out loud funny. They’re simple stick drawings but are packed with comic appeal. The comics sustain the visual interest down to the last page, making it a good choice for reluctant readers, especially boys.
(And I’m reluctant to say this as I know someone who really loves this series and is waiting with bated breath for the next book set for release this month) I do have some criticisms about the book.
I enjoyed reading this book, even though I couldn’t relate well to the character, as I was always too grade conscious to goof off in school and my idea of fun was going to the library after classes (LOL!).
But I do have a slight problem with the content.
Greg is a 7th grader with a 7th grader’s vocabulary and outlook towards school, family, friends, and life in general. He calls his classmates “morons,” he enjoys knocking his best friend to the ground (by throwing a football under the front tire of the bike as Rowley rides downhill), and does some things that are not regular mischief that boys get into but are just plain… mean.
He also says things like:
“If there’s one thing I learned from Rodrick, it’s to set people’s expectations real low so you end up surprising them by practically doing nothing at all.
An adult reader might see the humor in the situations, and that’s fine — after all, Kinney intended the series to be a retrospective account of his days in school. However, the book is packaged (with its cartoon format and bright covers in primary colors) towards much younger and more impressionable readers, and I find some of objectionable for the 8 to 12 set.
Obviously it’s not the sort of book meant to be used as a moral compass, but the manner by which character flaws are presented and situations are resolved in the book does not leave much room for critical thinking.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for adventurous reading; I certainly did my share of it when I was growing up, and it was far from moralistic tales dressed up with rainbows and butterflies and cute puppies.
But if I was a parent I don’t think I would want my kid to read this book as is, without proper guidance. Humor doesn’t have to be mean-spirited to be funny, and that takes away some points from the book for me.
My copy: hardcover
My rating: 3/5 stars