Dairy of a Wimpy Kid Review

 

wimpykid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid cover art

Jeff Kinney.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley’s Journal.  Amulet Books, 2007.

217 Pages

4Q – 3P – J

Grades: 6-9

The first in the series of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, is a quick read.  The illustrations, always relevant and funny, move the story along at a great pace.  The chronicles of Greg Heffley’s life in middle school are filled with all the issues facing a young middle class wimp.  His encounters with bullies, his lost and regained friendship with the weirdest kid in middle school and his forays into being the comic strip writer for the school paper.  Greg gets into all kinds of trouble along the way but, between betraying his buddy and chasing preschoolers with worm covered sticks, Greg still manages to teach the reader something about doing the right thing.

The cover art and book design is perfect for the genre.  The cover looks like a real diary (with some notebook paper taped onto the cover, presumably Greg’s own addition), the simple illustrations and the handwritten body text all make the story feel like a glimpse into the complicated life of a maturing young middle schooler with a knack for cartooning.  The use of bright primary colors on the book’s jacket makes it appealing even at a distance.  The audience for which this book was written will definitely find the design appealing.

The snappy but simple writing is perfect for a “tween” reader.  There is humor and there are lessons learned.  Reading the book from my point of view the language was simple, the ideas uncomplicated and the plot could probably be simply stated as “a year in the life of…”, but the serial nature of the novel and the age group targeted all makes this obvious.  

The illustrations were often much more complicated than the text.  What I mean by this is that the jokes and content conveyed in the illustrations reveal Greg’s active and incisive (if not yet fully recognized) eye for social commentary on his situations.  As an example take the final pages of the novel:  the culmination of the Halloween teenager subplot on page 211 has a great two comic spread separated by “story text.”  The viewer of the cartoon really can see Greg having a moment of self-realization.  He learns something about the importance of “fast-thinking” or more complexly: “situational awareness.”  The rest of the story reveals Greg restraining himself and really thinking about the things that he says or does in certain situations.  This contrasts directly to his earlier episodic behavior that was much more thoughtless or self-focused (although I guess that I might chase some kids with a worm covered stick if I had the chance…).  All this demonstrates good decision making for tweens and encourages them to develop their problem solving skills, thinking about the consequences to their actions.  Many junior high boys will see themselves in the Greg who likes video games and comics, struggles to do the right thing, and to be popular.

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