Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Series) by Jeff Kinney

A book that makes me laugh out loud. A rare treat.

This writer is a comic genius. No grown-up could fail to relate to the goofy situations this boy finds and gets himself into. Gregory would rather play video games and sleep and has a hilarious time squeaking out of the more manly activities that his father pushes him into. A perfect example of his ambition was when they had career day at school and they were asked to check the box that described what they would be doing 15 years from now. Gregory couldn't find the box that said "Sitting in a pool with all my cool friends," so he created another check box.

Whether or not you find them funny may be another story. Your child probably will. By the time I got to the following entry on his soccer experience, I was laughing hard enough to have tears rolling down my face:

Gregory is playing soccer because his dad forced him into it. He was hoping to get an easy coach, but he got the one who took soccer very seriously. One of this coach's favorite sayings was "Get your butt over here!" So Gregory and his friends decided it would be funny if the next time he said it, they ran, rear-end first to the coach. Next time he said it, Gregory did it. Only... his friends left him "high and dry" so to speak.

If that tweaks your funny bone at all, the book will delight you. It is billed as a book especially for reluctant tween readers. I recommend it for adults, or older/mature tweens.

His humor is something you will likely love or hate: please be patient with my taste. Remember: I taught middle school, and God has to give us certain gifts. Like warped senses of humor. (my older middle schooler discovered these books when they were on-line, and we laughed a lot AND discussed some of the scenarios.) Like most comic characters, these are exaagerated. (think: Calvin and Hobbes).

Caution: Mild scatological humor and words like butt and poopy appear. This is a series, and one of the books has a humorous scene based around the older brother throwing a party when the parents were gone...that's more questionable to me than "poopy." Gregory also lies to his mom in one scene. It's humorous...but...he's not role-model material... and neither is his older brother.

Rating: 2 Vatican Flags.


Beth,  February 22, 2011 at 8:31 AM  

I'm so glad you're recommending this only for adults and older/mid-tweens. I heard an interview with the author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid on NPR a few months ago. He expressed his surprise that parents were giving it to their children to read. Backing off from any responsibility for how his books affect kids, he said that he had written it out of nostalgia for his own youth, dealing with the annoying facts of kid-life by writing his own story. In other words, for selfish motives, with no interest at all in edification or even offering comfort, much less uplifting or inspiring children. He acted perplexed, amused, and too cool to care about how children might take the messages of his book: "I have no idea why this book is so popular with kids, except I guess it's just true. I wasn't trying to present a role model or anything, and I hope kids wouldn't take Gregory as one! I wouldn't want my kids to take him as a role model!" Not long after I heard this interview, it broke my heart to see a big book report project on Diary of a Wimpy Kid done by a talented but shy young tween at my child's school. In the book report, this boy had written that the book teaches you to feel good about just being yourself, even if you're not perfect. The sad thing here is that it was absolutely natural to this child to seek ethical messages in the book, to learn and grow based on the role model it offered...but the author cares nothing for any of this. I see this book as a really unfortunate marketing success, a product of irresponsible book publishing.

Tween Lit Crit February 22, 2011 at 10:08 AM  

Hi Beth,

I think this book is a bit like Calvin and Hobbes. My 11 yr. old read a Calvin and Hobbes cover-to-cover at the library, and shortly after that, her behavior was a bit obnoxious which she tried to pass off as funny. Books are ideas and ideas are powerful! It didn't ruin her, but it was an observable phenomena, and you wonder about the cumulative effects of all they read.

My biggest objection to visual media is that it slowly erodes our values and sense of what is normal and appropriate. Not because it is intrinsically evil but probably because it is the deviant and "shocking" that get our attention and thus make money.

Books are media, too!

I found his humor strikingly accurate as an adult, but my filter is very different than a child who is still forming his worldview and gaining life experience. We adults forget that so readily, and I'm not sure why...

Thanks for the comment!

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