Plot Summary: Greg Heffley is a middle school ne’er do well – he’s lazy, he’s selfish, and he can’t figure out what everyone else’s problem is. Despite these qualities, he’s wildly funny, and he does try to do the right thing (he just tends to get a little lost on the way to doing it). He’s a middle schooler, he’s just trying to navigate life and make things easier on himself. Can you blame him? He receives a diary from his mother and decides that he has no choice but to keep a journal of a year in middle school.
Critical Evaluation: Depicted in text and comic-strip format, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a great choice for reluctant readers. The characters are well-written and funny, Greg has a clear voice, and this book shows boys and girls alike that keeping a diary – or a journal, whatever you choose to call it – is a good thing. Writing, even to a slacker kid like Greg, can be something fun to do. The book resembles a diary on the inside and out, with lined pages, handwriting font, and hand-drawn pictures that look like Greg had drawn them filling the book. The Wimpy Kid series is one of the most popular middle-grade series out today, with six books currently in print and a seventh book planned.
Reviews: Booklist: “…unlike some other books about kids of this age, there’s no sense of a slightly condescending adult writer behind the main character. At every moment, Greg seems real, and the engrossed reader will even occasionally see the logic in some of his choices. Greatly adding to the humor are Kinney’s cartoons, which appear on every page. The simple line drawings perfectly capture archetypes of growing up, such as a preschool-age little brother, out-of-touch teachers, and an assortment of class nerds. Lots of fun throughout.”
School Library Journal: “Kinney does a masterful job of making the mundane life of boys on the brink of adolescence hilarious… it is an excellent choice for reluctant readers, but more experienced readers will also find much to enjoy and relate to in one seventh grader’s view of the everyday trials and tribulations of middle school.”
Awards: New York Times Best Seller for 114 weeks; Winner, Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards for Favorite Book (2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 – for series); Nominee, Nickeloden Kids’ Choice Awards for Favorite Book (2009); American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book.
Reader’s Annotation: Everyone around seventh grader Greg Heffley is a moron. His baby brother is annoying; his older brother is a jerk; his parents are clueless, and his friends refuse to recognize his greatness. Welcome to middle school.
Author Information: Jeff Kinney is an online game developer who started a Web comic featurign Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley on www.funbrain.com in May 2004. The Wimpy Kid website offers information about all of the books (and a countdown clock for Cabin Fever) and offers news and information about the author, a link to “Wimp Yourself” where kids can create their own Wimpy Kid using preselected templates, links to merchandise.
I have been a Wimpy Kid fan for a few years, having read the series with both of my sons. I thought it would be a great choice for below-grade-level and reluctant readers of all ages.