The second installment of the Diary of a Wimpy Kids series is called Roderick Rules. Here, we start off with Greg Heffley informing us that this is the beginning of his second journal–which his mother apparently bought for him because she was proud of herself for making him write so much the previous year.
Greg explains that he’s determined to keep his brother Roderick from finding out that he’s got yet another journal, since last time Greg’s “secret” was discovered he pretty much got beat up. Greg then complains that his dad has (yet again) forced him to sign up for the swim team this summer, which sucks for two reasons. 1. Greg is terrible at swimming, and 2. He can’t S*T*A*N*D the cold pool water, so hides in the restroom for most of the time. Then, we learn Greg’s best friend Rowley has out of the country for most of the summer, making Greg even more eager to have break over with and start the school year.
Moreso than the first installment of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, author Jeff Kinney seems to bounce Greg through more seemingly inconsequential minutia. This time around, Greg isn’t following as much of a discernible a plot as in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, book 1–now, it’s more bouncing from one event to the next. Although Kinney reflects his normal great sense of humor in Greg’s isolated events, many readers may feel Roderick Rules is a trifle more disjointed than than the first book, with less of a well-defined plot line.
Theme 1 – Jealousy
Roderick Rules shares a theme with the first book–that of jealousy toward a friend. We can see this jealousy when Greg shows little interest in listing to Rowley’s description of his family’s summertime trip overseas. But it’s even more obvious when Rowley gets lots of attention from the girls in school when they hear about it.
(This jealousy theme can be seen in the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book when Rowley gets attention from girls after Greg causes Rowley to break his own arm and wear a cast, and again when Rowley gets all the stuff for Christmas that Greg wanted for himself.)
Theme 2 – Younger Sibling Comparing Himself to His Siblings
One story line that Jeff Kinney visits when Greg compares himself to Roderick in their in their vastly different experiences with pen pals. Greg envy’s his brother’s experience with getting an attractive female pen pal, whereas Gregg doesn’t get nearly so lucky.
Another situation reveals Greg’s resentment toward Roderick for conning their dad into doing his reports for him. Yet, when faced with his own report deadline, Greg also goes to someone else for help–Roderick, himself! (Too bad Greg didn’t notice that his brother sold him a report he had gotten an F on. Yikes.)
Greg also contrasts the way he and Roderick handle the Mom Bucks program their mother starts. While Roderick is quick to cash in his bucks for real money, Greg takes pushes the envelope even farther when he finds $100,000 worth of the bills in a board game and stuffs them all under his mattress for later use.
Theme 3 – Lack of Awareness to what Others are Going Through
When Greg’s little brother Manny gives him a home-made gift comprised of a ball of tin foil with after breaking his video game system. Greg anticipates that someone is going to sit on it…and that someone turns out to be Greg’s friend Rowley. Greg chronicles this event in such a dispassionate tone that gives the distinct impression that he’s not empathetic to his friend’s pain–but then, neither is he trying to be cruel. He simply seems to be lacking awareness of the extent of Rowley’s pain, which we the readers can see through the illustration.
(A example of this same theme in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, book 1 is when Greg causes Rowley to break his arm. He describes the event as though he just doesn’t “get” what his friend is going through.)
This theme is one that readers may notice repeatedly throughout the books of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series: Greg seems to not have a full awareness of how things affect others. Rather, his focus is his analysis of a situation–even when his interpretation is obviously (to us) lacking at least part of the story. Jeff Kinney’s intent is surely intended, at least in part, to highlight the dichotomy of what Greg “sees” in a situation, compared to the “real life” of what readers see via the book illustrations.
Theme 4 – Kids Can Be Unintentionally Cruel
Greg goes through a lengthy explanation about how he and some of his friends ruthlessly tease a boy that Greg had been pretty good friends with last year–a boy named Chirag Gupta who was supposed to have moved away during the summer. Since Chirag obviously hadn’t moved, Greg figures it’ll be hilarious if he and his buddies pretend the boy is silent and invisible. This taunting goes on for a long time, and eventually leads to a trip to the principal’s office, and even to a trip to Chirag’s home to make a personal apology.
According to Greg, his mom’s to blame for putting the “I don’t see you” joke into his head when she did the same thing to Greg when he was a little kid. Going back to Theme 3 – Lack of Awareness to What Others are Going Through, we can see Greg is pretty much clueless about the effect this teasing has on Chirag. This is pretty ironic, considering Greg seems hyper-aware of how he, himself, is treated at school.
Theme 5 – Passing the Buck
The theme of passing the fault on to the adults is continued in Roderick Rules when Greg tells readers us how one of summer jobs was to take a neighbor’s dog out each day so it could go to the bathroom. When the dog has one too many accidents, Greg decided it would be most efficient to simply let the dog relieve itself on the floor in the house, then clean up all the messes at once. Unfortunately for Greg, the neighbors return 1 day early from the 2-week vacation–and they are not happy. But Greg does not feel guilty about his transgressions–he just figures it’s the neighbors’ fault for not being polite to call and let him know they’ll be returning early. So it’s all the neighbors’ fault. Hmmm.
Theme 6 – Keeping Secrets (is good and necessary)
The main premise of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is . . . you guessed it, a diary! And diaries are meant to write down things that are private, that no one else is meant to see. And, as mentioned earlier in this review, Greg discusses the importance of keeping his second Journal (Diary) secret from Roderick so that no more bad things happen this time around.
Another event fitting the “keeping secrets” theme is when Greg agrees to keep Roderick’s secret after he holds a party that’s unsanctioned by their parents. Of course, the brothers both get in trouble when their parents realize the truth–but at least Roderick didn’t beat Greg up for ratting him out, and that’s a plus.
And you’ll recall from the first Wimpy Kid book that, except for Greg’s Journal/Diary, the biggest secret of all was who ATE THE CHEESE at the end of the book.
Interestingly, you’ll notice that many of the events in Greg’s life aren’t mentioned again, so it sometimes feels like you’re hopping from one unrelated experience to the next. But certain events will have repercussions that will come up again and again throughout the narrative. Since you never know which kind of event each is going to be, you may soon realize it’s best to read everything carefully in case it turns out to be important later on.
One aspect of the Roderick Rules is that, just as in the first Wimpy Kid book, real kids–both at the elementary and middle school level–will be able to easily relate to many of Greg’s experiences. And hopefully when kids see (from the illustrations) that there’s more to most situations than Greg realizes, this may help kids gain greater awareness of their own real-life situations.
I really enjoyed Roderick Rules, and look forward to reading future installments of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
Interested in Getting Your Own Set of Books?
Amazon.com has consistently offered the best prices I’ve seen, at this point.
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
Special “making of” book tells how the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie was made: The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
Be sure to read my reviews on Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 5 – The Ugly Truth.