Monday, July 11, 2011

Reading what the students read: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Today on my segment about what my students are reading, I am featuring the first book in the bestselling series Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.
Book checkouts: 12
Series checkouts: 48, with books 2-4 unreturned at the end of the school year *unhappy librarian grumblings*
Typical reader: Elementary students, grades 3-5, as well as some 6th and 7th grade students

Synopsis: Greg Heffley records his experiences with words and pictures in his diary (excuse me, "journal") as he tries to survive sixth grade.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

Here's another amazingly popular series that my students just can't give up.  Unfortunately, I mean that a bit literally, since the school year ended with only the first and fifth books on the shelf.  They're all checked out to people, so at least I know who to get after for the books, but they're overdue.  These are three books that are Follett Publishing-bound (hardcover of sorts) with spine labels, barcodes, and the whole nine yards; it's not like they can hide the library book status.  Blah!  *end librarian rant*

Anyway.  This series is a leader in the juvenile fiction trend of diary-style novels.  The books have stylized writing to look like a kid's print, and are full of little illustrations.  A book like Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a quick read for a typical reader, and attractive to reluctant ones.  When I don't have much time but want to read, I enjoy manga and graphic novels.  I can certainly understand the appeal of this format.

This series can also be a parent-pleaser.  There's no foul language, gore or sexual content, hardly any violence, and positive parental role models.  It's aimed at upper elementary to middle school students, but there's nothing objectionable if a child in a lower grade wants to read it.  Maybe a discerning parent won't like the potential for imitative behavior, but along with the little pranks and not always making the right choices, the protagonist does often try to do what's right.

Illustrated tribulation!
What do I think of this book?  Well, I think I shouldn't go straight from a hard-hitting, exciting page-turner of a zombie/dystopian YA novel to a humorous spice-of-life book for kids.  Then again, I might just have a sense of humor that needs a tuneup.  Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with this book!  It is written in an excellent voice, perfect for both making a believable protagonist and reeling in the readers who can relate to him.  The illustrations are amusing and make great accompaniments to the story.  The trials and tribulations Greg goes through are ones the intended audience share as well, and older readers can look back and either smile or cringe as they recall their own middle school experiences.  (Except me.  I was a bookish wallflower who probably missed half of what went on with my peers at that age.  Which might be why I feel like I'm missing something with this book.)

Fun fact: This series was originally published on the web at

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