* Prices may differ from that shown
A fantastic book that gives the story of a young geeky/wimpy boy trying to fit into school and life in general with things going wrong for him most the time. A great read, and lots of fun too, my son who is 9 now as been reading these books since he was 7/8 years old, hes got the set & still reads them. The books is set out differently, like a diary of a young boy with little doodles & pictures illustrated in the book, which makes it more interesting & fun to read. My boys loves to read any books, but I would say this book will get interest in children who perhaps are not that bothered about reading, it may encourage them, just my opinion but If your thinking to buy this book, I would have no hesitation, you will not be dissapointed. Top marks in our house, we love wimpy kid diaries.
We recently were given a few sample copies of Puffin Post and I told my son to read the magazine and choose a book he liked - which I would order from Amazon. He read a number of book summaries and descriptions before coming back and saying he would like this book.
My son went through a brief stage with Young Adult books before turning to graphic novels - and it has been quite difficult to interest him reading paperback books since he started the graphic novel stage. of course he will read whatever he has too as school work, but most of all - I want my son to read for pleasure and there just is not any way to force a child to read for pleasure - all you can do is try to make reading as fun as possible. I assumed he chose this book because it does have a large number of cartoon like illustrations. These are terribly crude and all black and white, but he does like them.
The main character is Greg Heffley, a very thin small child just starting middle school. I had to look this up and it turns out this should make Greg age 11. Greg is nonathletic, smart but lazy and less than socially adept. His best friend by default is Rowley. Greg isn't really popular enough to hang out with any of the cool kids - so he is friends with Rowley basically because his options are to take Rowley as friend or have none. Rowley is even more socially awkward than Greg - and not nearly as bright but he is a loyal friend - something Greg never really appreciates. Greg has an older brother Roderick, who is popular, in a band and not at all nice to his younger brother. But instead of treating his younger brother Manny differently, Greg is unkind to his younger brother as well - showing he really isn't any better than the big brother he can not get along with.
Overall, I didn't particularly like Greg, at least not until the end of the book when he appears to have learned a lesson about friendship. I especially disliked that he was willing to let his friend take the blame for something he did - and the fact that he was quite unkind at times to the only person who really stuck by him, but it isn't my opinion that counts with ths book. On the plus side, when I read this to my son, I could point out how the other characters felt, and that Greg should have had a bit more consideration of others. Perhaps he wouldn't be so lonely and excluded if he were a bit nicer to people - and at the end he appears to have learned something.
This is a children's book and my son absolutely loved it. He was literally laughing out loud as he read it, and then asked me to read it to him at story time after had had just finished it. He wanted to share the jokes with me. I 'm afraid my sense of humour is lacking. Someone going to the Dr for a new butt because the old one has a crack in it isn't really hilarious to me, but seeing how much fun my son was having I could join in easily enough. For all my complaints about this book, this does appeal to children, most boys are going to relate to some aspects of the book and most off all - it makes boys want to read. There are plenty of jokes and enough situations that are close enough to real life to make them funny. Much of this is gross out jokes, but if that keeps my son laughing - I don't mind.
I buy my children books quite often, but shortly after reading the first book - my son asked for extra jobs to earn enough money to but book 2. Now don't get me wrong he does enjoy books - but he usually says - "Why should I spend my money on books - if I just wait you'll buy them anyway". This is basically true - but he enjoyed this book enough that he didn't want to wait. He had £1.50 and I offered to cough up the extra £1 for a used copy. And of course when my voucher came in and it was time to pick another book he chose book 3. Book 3 isn't even here yet and he is saving for book 4, but I will pay 1/2 for him. I feel that a child wanting to spend their own pocket money on a book is about as high a praise as an author can get.
This book is very easy to read. I would put it on the same level as Horrid Henry, but while he outgrew Horrid Henry some time ago, this still captures his interest and I feel this will appeal to an older audience than Horrid Henry. It is difficult for me to place age levels on a book as every child reaches reading milestones at different ages, but at age 7, this book gives my son no problems at all. In fact it is far to easy to present any challenge - but sometimes that can be a good thing. Of course children do need to read more difficult books and stretch their ability - but some times it is nice to just relax and coast for awhile. This book just makes reading fun for him. It has him waiting on the postman with more anticipation than he shows for a new video game and has made reading one of his favourite activities again. He says this book should get more than 5 stars as it one of the best ever. I can not give this anything less than 5 stars after my sons reaction.
I also feel that because this book may still appeal to older children - I would guess up to age 12 or so, and is so easy to read, it might be a good choice for children learning to read a bit later - but I would note it does make a joke about the gifted and "easy" group at school which we all know means slow. It points out you know which one you are in by the books they give you. I am not sure if this could make a child feel stupid if they are in a lower reading group - and the age at which a child reads does make them smarter or slower. There are so many variables, and children come to it when they are ready if they have the right support just as every child learns to walk and talk in their own time as well.
I would recommend this for children who enjoyed but have read all the titles or outgrown Horrid Henry, or just for children who love comedy in books. I do feel this a good transition between comics and paperbacks, and I am very happy to see my son expanding his reading choices.
Before I close - I think I should explain my title. If you recall, at the beginning of this review I said I assumed by son chose this book solely on the basis of the Puffin review. After reading it - he said it was great - but where was the poop. I said I wasn't sure what he was talking about and he explained that he heard about a film of this book , but the film was called Diarrhoea Wimpy Kid. It seems he chose this book based on a misunderstanding - but a most fortunate misunderstanding. He enjoyed the book so much he wasn't too dissapointed that there really isn't any poop - but judging by the humour of this book - I would say there is a good chance at encountering some eventually as we read through all 7 books.
Update: It is almost a year since I wrote this review, and as impressed as I was by this series at the time, I am even more impressed now. It has been read again and again, and we are now counting down the days until the 8th book is released and arrives with us. It was pre-ordered months ago. This is an excellent series that gets boys reading and keeps them reading.
Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a humour book for children, that's about as uninspired as children's fiction can be.
The comedy in Diary of a Wimpy Kid is based around the relateability of the situations and the protagonist (a weak kid at middle school). The book's comedy could almost be described as observational comedy, its jokes addressing the horrors of school, the desperate desire for popularity and the embarrassing situations involving parents and humiliation. The book is even designed to look like the protagonist's diary (the pages are lined and there are simple cartoons on almost every page, designed to look like the protagonist has drawn them). Sentences are rarely longer than ten words and the voice is consistent - I suppose this was designed to read like a young boy telling his friend a story. Not a very good story. The book is clearly trying to be the bridge between picture books/comics and a more traditional novel.
But I urge you not to buy your child this book. The humour is mostly lame and unimaginative for one thing, but the way it's structured makes it a useless book for developing readers. Not quite a good comic, and not quite a proper novel may 'bridge the gap' for developing readers but I'd argue that it brings them to a standstill. Children won't be interested in reading more advanced books and evolving as readers after reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid - they'll want to read the easy books with the cartoons in them, these books that leave nothing to the imagination.
They're not bad books but they're not good books either. They just feel kind of lazy, the sort of thing a child could finish in an afternoon and then won't remember a few days later. If you want to help children advance onto more complex books then buy them any of Andy Stanton's brilliant Mr Gum series. Stanton's works have imagination and humour that will get children excited about reading, whereas Diary of A wimpy Kid is a lame comic pretending to be a book.
'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' is exactly what it claims to be: a set of diary entries chronicling the mundane life of a relatively unpopular middle school boy. It is marketed as a book that will get reluctant readers reading, due to the comic book format, and seems to be positioning Greg Heffley, a much put upon tween, as a modern day Adrian Mole. The twist is that Greg's story is supported by simple pictures which help to lend the story a greater comic edge than it might otherwise achieve. It is the first instalment in a growing series of books, the most recent of which won a regional award voted for by children, and is growing in popularity. A film adaptation is currently out in cinemas. However, the book does have its critics, who have suggested that Heffley is an unsuitable role model for impressionable young readers. So, I had two big questions I wanted answered as I began to read. Was it worth the hype? And how horrible was Heffley?
== Plot ==
Er - what plot? As the opening pages make clear, Greg has no major event to chronicle and no particular events in mind to discuss. ('Let me get something straight: this is a JOURNAL, not a diary. This was mom's idea, not mine...I figured I might as well write in this book to pass the time.') Of course, it is meant to be a set of diary entries, but such books usually still possess a clear narrative thread. Not here. Although the narrative follows Greg through a series of events over the course of an academic year, there is little sense of progression or event. The separate entries could, on the whole, be read discretely without losing much, if any, of their impact. They rely on humour rather than story, although some details (such as the dreaded 'Cheese Touch' and 'Zoo-wee Mama' comedy) recur at the end to give a sense of closure to the story.
I can understand the book's appeal for non-readers because I would argue that this is not actually a 'book' in the sense that one might traditionally use this term; it's really just a set of comic strips which have an unusual number of supporting words. I am less sure of the appeal to those children who do read: there is little sense of satisfaction upon completing the book because there is no story to end. I suppose the one advantage of this is that the book, unlike so many other books which are designed as part of a series, does not end on a hastily crafted cliff-hanger which is designed purely to get you pre-ordering the next instalment. Besides, there's nothing wrong with reading comic strips...unless you're going to paste them together and call it a 'novel in cartoons'. I am aware that, in a post-modernist literary world, novels do not have to have traditional plots, but I still feel that the term has been inappropriately applied here - hijacked, almost. You can take a blog and turn it into a sellable book, certainly, but a novel? Hmm. I'm nit-picking, I know, so I'll return to my main point: there is no real 'plot', simply a loosely interwoven series of episodes.
== Episodes ==
Each episode is based around recognisable elements of tween existence, including: darling younger siblings who cannot do anything wrong; friendship difficulties; apparently unreasonable parents; and Big Ideas that don't quite go to plan. I think the subject matter is very well chosen for the intended audience, and, although the group of (13 year old) school children who studied this book with me generally disliked it and felt it was too childish, they also thought that they would have liked it if they had read it a few years before - i.e. when they were in middle school.
== Style ==
Most episodes are discrete, although there are some references back and forth. There is no point where a reader would have to go back to understand events, especially as the events selected are plausibly realistic (although exaggerated for comic effect) and therefore likely to be familiar to the intended reader. The book is easy to pick up and put down. There is no compulsion to keep reading between entries, but there is no need to skim back over the pages previously read to 'catch up'. This does make it easier for young readers who are more reluctant and want to read short amounts before taking a break of at least a day.
Entries never last more than a few pages, sometimes only two, and are written in a fairly large, round font so they are easy on the eye as well as the memory. The pages are ruled and the font selected looks like a young boy's handwriting, which does add a certain authenticity that young readers may find appealing.
I found the book exceptionally easy to read and had finished it within a couple of hours. This may make it suitable for those who lack confidence in their reading ability, or who read very slowly and would get a boost from finishing what appears to be a long story (217 pages) over a short period of time.
The language is very simple and it is written in a convincingly young style, frequently using colloquial language and non-standard syntax. This does make it easier for young readers to read, and again adds a certain pleasing authenticity. (Although the English teacher in me worries that this kind of writing encourages children to ignore Standard English in favour of a more casual style when they are trying to write formally. The difficulty is that children do recognise the difference between formal and informal writing, so when they read a book, which they categorise as a 'formal' text, they subconsciously learn the kind of language and grammar that is appropriate to formal writing. (Think I'm exaggerating the possibility? I've lost count of the number of children who have insisted that 'gotten' is an acceptable word because they've seen it in books, and they've normally only seen it within speech marks, i.e. as reported speech, or in diary style texts, but because it is inside a published book they feel it is valid to use in their own formal writing.) Destruction of children's grammar aside, the writing is unexceptional.) There is no bad language, and actually very little reliance on 'silly' or 'childish' language to raise a smile.
There are one or two large pictures on every page to help tell the story, and this is Kinney's main strength. The cartoon images are simply (albeit skilfully) drawn - characters are basically depicted as rounded stick figures - and present straightforward but highly comic moments. I did enjoy the pictures - as long as I took my time to take them in. I found that if I rushed by them, they didn't add to the experience of reading at all, but if I took the time to view them properly, they enriched what was otherwise a fairly basic story. Once again, the stark black lines add a certain authenticity to the work which I found appealing.
An early picture shows Greg 'stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons'. The other boys are labelled 'morons' with big arrows. It's simple but it definitely got a smile from me, and sometimes I even found myself giggling aloud at the depictions. Somehow it is much more powerful, in a comedic sense, to see the incidents described. For example, you see pleased mum hearing from grinning Greg that he 'did the right thing' when you know that what he had decided was the 'right thing' would not have pleased his mum at all. The image really helps to capture this irony.
This is also a good indication of the kind of humour Kinney develops. We are encouraged to read between the lines, an important skill for developing readers, and to laugh at the ironies present in life. (Having persuaded his dad that he's been doing some much needed sport, by diving through a sprinkler to look sweaty, Greg becomes a victim of his own success when his mum makes him take a completely unnecessary shower.) We are also encouraged to laugh at Greg's way of perceiving events, which is often rather 'unique'. I think that, if young readers are aware of the need to question Greg's attitudes, then this could actually be quite a good book for developing their understanding of narrative perspective. I did find the events that happened mildly amusing, although nothing reached the heights of 'I-must-share-this-with-someone'. However, I am not the target audience and I imagine that younger readers, with the benefit of closer proximity to Greg's concerns, may find the events funnier than I did.
== Characters ==
The main character is the narrator, Greg. He does come across as a typical tween in his outlook and interpretations of life: parents and siblings are there to spoil his fun and his aim in life is to find ways around them, preferably while getting some money for sweets. He is not an unlikeable character, although he is certainly rather low on empathy for others. Is he an unsuitable role model? Not really. It's true that there are no obvious moral lessons for children to learn here (when Heffley gives his friend a great Christmas gift, it's only because he didn't want it) but Kinney accurately depicts the thought processes of a typical tween. In doing so, and then encouraging the reader to laugh at Greg's mistakes, I would argue that he is subtly criticising such self serving behaviour and encouraging greater consideration for others.
Other characters are straightforward stereotypes, but none the less comic for it. Younger and older brother exist to make Greg's life difficult; mum and dad are there to punish him when he attempts to get his own back. Aunts give terrible Christmas presents and teachers are oblivious to obvious issues that Greg could resolve easily. ('Let me just say for the record that I think middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented. You've got kids like me who haven't hit their growth spurt yet mixed in with these gorillas who need to shave twice a day. And then they wonder why bullying is such a problem in middle school. If it was up to me, grade levels would be based on height, not age.') All in all, everyone is easy to recognise and motives are simple to understand, which makes following the basic storylines even easier for young readers.
== Conclusions ==
The subtitle suggests that this is a 'novel in cartoons', but it's really a set of cartoons masquerading as a story. However, potential concerns about Heffley as a role model aside, it is quite a smart book, which encourages young readers to read between the lines and enjoy a slightly more sophisticated kind of humour. There is little sense of satisfaction to be had on completing the book, as there is no plot to conclude or character development to spot, but there is plenty of mild amusement to be gained during reading. Younger tweens, around eight to ten years of age, are likely to find this a simple and entertaining read, mercifully free of the 'big issues' which can dominate even some very young children's fiction nowadays. Realist yet escapist due to the exaggerated scenarios, easy to read but visually entertaining too, 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' really could begin to bridge the gap between readers and non-readers. Worth buying.
Greg Heffley is a bit of a 'wimp'. He is not really athletic or academic. He is a middle of the road young lad, trying to find his place in life. He is in sixth grade and his best friend is called Rowley. Greg has been given a diary by his Mum (he asked for a journal as diary's are too wimpy, but Mum got it wrong) so that he can write his 'feelings' down. It is in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney, that we can read, laugh and cry out "oh no", as Greg writes about his fictional but entertaining pre pubescent life!
Greg basically uses his journal to write what he has been up to and shares his hilarious escapades. Throughout the novel, poor young Greg, gets himself caught up in numerous difficult situations, and gets his poor 'best' friend Rowley into lots of trouble. Greg tries to come up with bizarre money making ideas, including terrorising young kids in his 'haunted house'. Even when poor Greg tries to do right, it turns out wrong. Everything in his life should have a purpose to his benefit. He is a typical young, geeky lad, who is never wrong (or more likely will never admit it!).
The book is written in the form of a journal/diary, with young Greg writing about what he has been up to, along with his feelings and opinions (which are often very funny). Now, this may seem quite 'Adrian Moleish', which I would have to agree with, but it is in a much more basic form and suitable for 9 years and up (which is clearly labelled on the back cover of the book). Although, it is easy to read, I think older children will appreciate the humour and understand Greg more so than younger readers. It is a large book, with 217 pages, with an easy to read font (made to look like Greg's writing) and lots of doodled, cartoon like pictures.
Jeff Kinney first wrote The Diary of a Wimpy Kid online in daily installments (Funbrain.com). In 2006 he signed a multi book deal, and this, his first book, has been on the New York Times children's bestsellers list for over 40 weeks even reaching number one. I am not surprised at all, as it is a breath of fresh air in children's literature.
You may question why I have read this book which is actually aimed at young readers. Well, firstly I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about and why it was so popular. I also wanted to keep an eye on what my son was reading, and thought it must be good (in his eyes) as he actually chose to read it in his 'free time' without me having to nag him.
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid was, surprisingly so, an enjoyable read for me too. It was entertaining and even made me chuckle on more than one occasion. I really liked the way the author has made Greg into such a 'real' character, both in thought and action. By this I mean, I have four boys, and much of the time I do not understand why they have done something which is totally daft and sometimes dangerous. By reading this book, it made me realise that it is not only my boys that do such weird things at times. I could actually relate to what Greg was up to or going through, by my own experiences.
The relationship between Greg and his best friend, Rowley, is one that changes as the book develops. Greg is only really friends with Rowley as he can boss him around and look cool. Poor old Rowley is mothered through and through, and also willing to go along with all of Greg's 'mad' ideas, even when it leads to a broken arm. It is interesting when things change and Rowley becomes popular, leaving Greg out on a limb. Greg still can't admit he is wrong or apologise. Any young reader will be able to observe Greg's 'mean' behavior and realise that it is wrong.
It was great to read about Greg's relationship with his brothers, He is the middle child, and really felt the pressure. His older brother, Rodrick, was awful and not really interested in Greg, unless it was to wind him up. His younger brother, Manny, was babied and got whatever he wanted. It was always Greg that got into trouble, due to Rodrick's manipulation or Manny's innocence. It actually made me think that maybe sometimes I need to listen more to all sides of the story (with my sons) and not presume who is causing the trouble!
This is definitely not a normal reading book. It breaks away from the formal novels that some children find so hard to get into, and presents itself in a fun way with an easy reading format. I think it is great to read all different genres, and for any child that finds reading a chore I am sure they will enjoy this book, along with the other three, and feel hugely successful at finishing a large book.
I would most certainly recommend this book. It is full of realistic, but very amusing scenarios which many of us can relate to. It is funny and actually quite addictive. It also highlights mean behaviour along with bullying. But overall it portrays a goofy young boy, searching for his position within his peers and family, trying his hardest to be cool and accepted.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is published by Puffinbooks