Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2007) is a hot book where middle-schoolers are concerned. It’s a #1 New York Times bestseller, and its many sequels are too. Many parents, though, aren’t so thrilled about this tale of a manipulative cheat.
So what is it about this book that is so appealing to kids?
Is it the format? It’s sort of a graphic novel, purporting to be the journal of middle-schooler Greg Heffley. There are plenty of simple illustrations, close to stick-figure, and the text is in what looks like hand printing in a notebook. While this is unusual and engaging, I don’t think it’s just the format that makes this book so popular.
Is it the string of funny episodes? This book really has the reader laughing. The episodes don’t lend themselves to an overall plot and character arc, but nevertheless there is a bit of that going on–on the subject of The Cheese Touch, for instance.
Is it Greg’s not-so-great relationships with the other kids? Greg, justifies himself like a pro and can’t even see the other guy’s point of view–not even when Greg does something out of character at the end of the book.
I think Greg’s manipulative nature is the reason for the book’s allure. Kids see themselves, and their friends, in Greg. Also, of course, Greg’s generous gesture at the end tells us that he’s not so bad after all.
He’s hardly a role model parents want kids to read about, and many parents aren’t happy about his popularity. But there it is, your kid will likely read this book at some point. It would be a good one for a family discussion about human nature, the dark side of ourselves, and how should we then live?
I give his book five stars, for its success: * * * * *
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My grandson loved this series a few years back.
What an excellent review! I too had wondered about the popularity of this series. Your thoughtful analysis makes sense.
I never read the book, though my great nephew devoured all of them when he was younger. I wouldn’t complete discount the format. These books, with the stick illustrations, and minimal print are a good choice for kids who don’t like to read that much, or find dense books like the Harry Potter series intimidating. At least the kids are reading, in any case.
Thanks for the thoughtful review.
I’ve wondered why these books are so popular. My youngest loved them. And I think Linda is on to something re the illustrations and minimal print. And she (my youngest, not Linda!) found the books hilarious. Thank you for this review. You’ve got me thinking.
I’ve always been an avid reader. My dad set a great example, reading every night before going to bed. He read every book purchased for the high school library before it went on the shelves. I’m not positive why, but I would hope it was in part to encourage students to check out the great new books. – Margy