Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 – Where a Boy Calls His Secret Diary a Journal – BOOK REVIEW

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by Nindo Mom on December 11, 2010

The first novel in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, written by author Jeff Kinney, was first published in 2007. Since then, it has become one of the most popular series for kids ages 9-12, and has appeared on the New York Times bestsellers lists for 99 weeks now. With such lauded popularity, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is a good bet if you’re looking for cool books for your kids that they’ll enjoy reading. And, they just might learn a thing or two!

What’s great about the Wimpy Kid series is that it’s not just for kids. Any adult who enjoys reading the Sunday comics in the newspaper will likely love this series, as well.

My first review was for the fifth book in the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: the Ugly Truth. Now, I’d like to go back to the beginning–back to the first novel, titled simply Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which was published by Amulet Books in 2007.

Greg Heffley is our “hero”–well, more or less–who happens to be a bit of a wimp. From page one, he’s all flustered with his mother for not following his very specific instructions: not to buy a book that says anything about being a diary on it. Because it’s not a diary, Greg insists–it’s a journal. And carrying around a journal is a lot less likely to get him beat up at school.

From here, Greg tells us about his thoughts on middle school–and how middle school, in general, seems like a pretty bad idea, considering little sixth-grade squirts are sharing the hallways with big lunking eighth graders about to enter high school. Greg’s take on the middle school experience is pretty darn funny, too–especially for anyone who’s been through it and sees the truth in his observations. Changing attitudes between girls and boys, what makes a guy popular, avoiding getting stuck sitting next to the gross guy’s desk, passing notes in class–Greg Heffley covers a lot of very “important” material.

Then Greg gets to explaining all the interesting stuff that’s been going on in his life since he started middle school last fall. About the cheese that’s been baking on the playground blacktop since spring, waiting to permanently infect kids who come into contact with it. (Can you say cheese touch?) About how he and his best friend Rowley try to earn some money off kids in the neighborhood by building a haunted house with an entrance fee. (They put the whole thing together in just half an hour.) About making poor choices in whom they insult on Halloween, forcing them to run from their pursuers for the rest of the night.  But the “big event” at the end of the year might just leave the most lasting impression on readers. (Partially because it happens at the end of the book. Ha!)

Signing up to be a school safety patrol seemed like a great idea at the time, considering the fringe benefits of hot chocolate in the mornings and being allowed to be late for class. But when the Halloween night pursuers show up as Greg is escorting kindergartners home from school, he makes a decision with unexpected consequences. Fortunately, a final (for this book) traumatic event gives Greg one last opportunity to prove he’s a true friend–if he’s “man enough” to take it.

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One of the strengths of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is that it follows Greg–a pretty normal middle school kid–through some pretty typical experiences for a kid his age. The way he handles events are often less than ideal as he wrestles with what things truly mean and where his priorities lie. Through the Diary of a Wimpy Kid narrative, we know what Greg is thinking; by looking at the comics mixed in with all the text, we can see more of what is actually happening in the situations–beyond Greg’s personal perceptions of them. It’s interesting to see the differences between what Greg thinks and what is actually going on.

Kids reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid novel will likely commiserate with Greg’s perceptions. But as an added bonus, they will see how Greg misinterprets events, and how this makes things more difficult for him. Kids will see how situations can be more complicated than they may realize at first. And they’ll be more receptive to the message because it’s coming from a favorite character–a guy not too unlike themselves and doesn’t seem at all threatening because he’s not a real-life authority figure.

Buying Resources for Diary of a Wimpy Kid Novels

Amazon.com has the best prices I’ve seen on the Diary of a Wimpy Kid novels. Here’s a listing of the different books available thus far:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Box of Books
(A nice box set of hardback Diary of a Wimpy Kid books 1-4)

Book 1–Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Book 2–Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Book 3–Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw

Book 4–Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Book 5–Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth

There’s also a special book based on the film Diary of a Wimpy Kid that came out Summer 2010. This book reveals info about the making of the film: The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)

One more special book is a kind of workbook for kids to write their own journal entries: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book

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