Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a must-read for anyone who wants a good laugh, at a young boy's expense. The main character as well as our narrator, Gregory (Greg) Heffley, sets the stage for this nonstop laughter at the very first "journal" entry: "First of all, let me get something straight: This is a JOURNAL, not a diary. I know what it says on the cover, but when Mom went out to buy this thing I SPECIFICALLY told her to get one that didin't say "diary on it. Great. All I need is for some jerk to catch me carrying this book around and get the wrong idea. The other thing I want to clear up right away is that this was MOM's idea, not mine...don't expect me to be all "Dear Diary" this and "Dear Diary" that.

Greg, being rather small, skinny, and somewhat awkward looking (as also depicted in the cartoon images) tries to fit into his school, while also trying to avoid the muscling tactices of the bullies that surround him. He is also continually picked on by his older brother Rodrick and is annoyed by his baby brother Manny. Greg's parents continually are on his case to do well in school, stay physically fit, and to deter his video game playing obsession. The character of Greg is someone that many readers will be able to connect with when reading his journal entries based on how he deals with the conflicts that arise in each of his sticky predicaments. Usually, the scheme that he tries hard to create in order to get out of a problem typically results in disaster!

Author Jeff Kinney has a true talent of capturing the issues of acceptance, bullying, and popularity-most of which all middle-schoolers like Greg learn to deal with throughout their early teenage years. Kinney incoporates a lot of one-liners that you find yourself giggling uncontrollably, in addition to being able to relate to some of the feelings and thoughts described by Greg. "Mom is saying that I'm a smart kid, but I just don't "apply" myself." "I've been trying to be a lot more careful about my image ever since I got to middle school, but having Rowley around is defiinitely not helping."

The format and layout of the text and illustrations is something that is very unconventional to how most novels are set up. How exactly did Kinney come up with idea to set his story up in this manner? In an interview with The Huffington Post on March 22, 2010, Kinney stated: "I was a cartoonist in college, and I thought I had a shot of breaking into newspapers afterwards. I got rejection letters for a few years, and that was enough to make me reconsider my approach. At the time, I was keeping a journal, and it was filled with cartoon drawings. I decided to try writing a fictional story in that format, and that's when the idea for Diary of a Wimpy Kid was born."

Kinney also noted that the Diary series has brought out the interest in reading with the most reluctant students. I can confirm this exact statement with children that I've instructed in my 4th grade classes. In a review by Allie (age 11), she stated, "I ADORE these books. Finally, not some book series that's about some wonderchild that no one can relate to at all, but a book about an average kid who just wants to be cool and, in a way, is an anti-hero. Sure Greg is kind of shallow and mean, but hey, nobody's perfect. And Rowley's sort of annoying. I love these books because they're relatable." (
Kinney's ability to create a character who isn't perfect, but real, an "average" kid who makes mistakes, is something that many readers can connect with. And while Greg isn't the best role model for children, hopefully readers will learn to understand his good points, while reasoning why his downfalls would be unacceptable to replicate in their own lives. But that's part of the learning process, especially in middle school. Pre-teens such as Greg do a lot of maturing, as well as developmental and physical changes that impact their decision making process. It's no wonder why most people recognize it as a period time in their lives that they wouldn't want to live through again, certainly not me! :)

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