Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, books 1 - 5, by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (book one)

If you haven’t heard about this series from your kids then I’ll assume it’s because you have none. Kinney’s series is hilarious and easily appreciated by adults as well as children. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. My husband would say, “Nothing can be that funny in a kids book. You can stop laughing now.” But Diary of a Wimpy Kid is so funny!

Greg Heffley is about twelve years old when he begins writing his journal – NOT to be confused with a diary. Greg documents many of the events that most middle school students experience or encounter: Halloween, the school musical, Christmas, running for student government, and the safety patrol. Throughout the text, Greg’s cartoons provide lots of laughter. Passages like the one below show Greg’s mischievous side and we are often left to wonder if he will ever learn from his blunders since he almost always gets caught.

“I finally figured out how to get some of my games past Rowley’s dad. I just put one of my discs in Manny’s ‘Discovering the Alphabet’ case, and that’s all it takes” (43).

Greg’s inability to see his faults, many of which we find in ourselves, draws readers to him. Greg is young and we expect him to make mistakes. But we know he’s good at heart.

Publisher: Amulet Books, 2007        Recommended Age: 9 and up
Source: Iowa City Public Library     Pages: 217
Rating: 4 stars

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (book 2)

Greg returns in Rodrick rules to continue entertaining kids and adults alike. In book two, Greg learns to get along with his older brother, Rodrick, which often means becoming an accomplice in his brother’s schemes. As usual, Greg tries to finagle events to his benefit. Greg even prepares contingency plans in case things go wrong. And when his plans backfire, reader laughter ensues. Laugh page after page while Greg tries desperately to keep Rodrick from telling the world his biggest most embarrassing secret. If you’ve ever had a bullying older brother or annoying younger sibling, then you’ll know just what Greg Heffley is going through.
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2008        Recommended Age: 9 and up
Rating: 5 Stars                                    Pages: 217

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw (book 3)

In The Last Straw, book three in the Wimpy Kid series, Greg pushes his luck as far as he can. His antics have finally caught his dad’s attention. So, Greg tries to impress his dad but always seems to fall a little short of expectations. As usual, the cartoons are just as important as the text. Both formats are meant to be read together. And together, the cartoons and text yield rolling laughter. Book three is another quick and fun read - something you can pick up when you've only got a few minutes to read here and there.
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2009     Recommended Age: 9 and up
Source: IC Public Library              Pages: 217
Rating: 4 Stars
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (book 4)

Dog Days is the fourth (and currently last) book of the Wimpy Kid series. Greg’s family can’t afford a regular vacation this summer so Greg must learn to occupy and entertain himself in his hometown. He and his best friend, Rowley, have a falling out and Greg ends up drifting in the public pool for a long time before they get back together. This separation was sad since Greg and Rowley’s antics were a central feature in the other books. I missed seeing their relationship. Also, Greg becomes slightly distant from his family in the fourth book and I missed seeing more of his brothers. Overall, Dog Days is still funny, but it didn’t have much new to offer and relied a lot on the previous books’ jokes to fill the gaps. I hope Kinney writes one more Wimpy Kid book to end on a slightly higher note.
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2009      Recommended Age: 9 and up           Source: IC Public Library
Rating: 3 Stars Pages: 217

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth (book 5)

Change is in the air. Greg is excited for boy-girl parties and learning about "the facts of life" in his Advanced Health class. But growing up can be a little overwhelming. What's he to do without his best friend, Rowley, at his side? Will he starve to death when his mom goes back to school?  Greg begins to realize that maybe he shouldn't be in such a hurry to grow up. I mean, Greg + Responsibility = disaster waiting to happen.

Greg makes a lot of honest mistakes in The Ugly Truth. In the previous books, Greg makes deliberate plans to cut corners or shirk responsibility. Other times he couldn't help but be a prankster. But in this book we see how hard learning to be responsible is for a free spirit like Greg. The idea is so foreign to him. Greg's growing up whether he wants to or not. He tries and often fails at the most simple of tasks... but isn't that a part of growing up? Slowly, Greg begins to realize how hard being an adult is and how much he has to be thankful for. Of course, Greg does not verbalize this. Instead he gives a sigh of relief when he realizes he has supportive parents to fall back on. But that's what adolescence should be about - testing your wings in a safe environment.

I liked The Ugly Truth more than the previous book, Dog Days. Rowley and Greg are still at odds but they can't hold out much longer. I laughed a lot so if you need a humor break this book should do the trick. My favorite "episodes" were the trip to the dentist, the maid bit, and the miscommunication concerning an elbow.

This is the fifth book in the Wimpy Kid series. They're great books for reluctant readers or anyone with a sense of humor. I wonder if Kinney will continue with a 6th. I'm hoping for one more. Do guys think he should write one  more or should he stop while Greg's young?

Publisher: Amulet, 2010    Pages: 217     Source: IC Public Library
Rating: 4 Stars     Recommended Age: 9 and up

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