Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 3 – The Last Straw – Book Review and Summary

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by Nindo Mom on February 27, 2011

In this third installment of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Greg Heffley continues his wimpiness–which should come as no surprise to fans. But this time, Greg’s father starts to seriously ponder how he can un-wimpify his son.

One thing that makes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books so interesting is author Jeff Kinney’s method of introducing a plot element early in the book, then coming back to it later on. And you can never tell when a plot element will turn out to be important because Kinney touches on so many bits and pieces of Greg Heffley’s life–in this way, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is a lot like real life. So often, we don’t know which events will amount to something big–and things that seem important at the time can turn out to have little or no discernible influence on our future.

Plot Line / Summary for The Last Straw

The Last Straw starts out with Greg pondering New Year’s Resolutions. Since he’s the best person he knows, he figures that he doesn’t need any resolutions this year. Partially because he’s such a good person, Greg helps out the other members of his family out by letting them know how they can improve themselves. Greg’s dad’s resolution to quit junk food will turn out to mean big trouble for Greg because it always puts his dad in such a bad mood.

Forced to wake up early one morning by his grumpy father, Greg discovers the pleasures of wearing his mom’s brand new, fluffy white robe. At first, he only meant to wear it for a couple of minutes while he waited for his turn in the shower. But once Greg realizes how wonderful the robe feels, he keeps it on after his shower, too–which only seems to make his dad grumpier.And when Greg’s dad catches him standing over a heating vent in their house wearing his mother’s robe, sighing in pleasure as the heated air gets caught underneath, things get even worse.

It has been dawning on Greg’s dad that his son is too much of a wimp. Unlike the neighbor’s kids, Greg doesn’t play sports in the yard after school. He doesn’t even use the weight set his father had given him at Christmas. Instead, he just keeps getting into trouble. So Greg’s dad kicks him out of the house for the day so he can get some good, healthy exercise–not just hanging around the house all day, fighting with his brothers.

Greg’s first idea–that of training himself to jump 10+ feet into the air by jumping out of deeper and deeper holes–doesn’t go so well. So Greg convinces his best friend Rowley that they should put together a time capsule filled with their most valued treasures. Several pages later, when Greg is suffering from sugar withdrawals, he digs up the capsule so he can get his three bucks out and buy some snacks. (Greg also availed himself of Rowley’s goodies, while he was at it.)

Moving on, Greg’s dad accidentally (we assume) throws away what’s left of Greg’s little brother Manny’s security blanket-which is basically “a couple of pieces of yarn held together by raisins and boogers.” And now, Manny is taking out his vengeance on everyone. To get back at his dad, Manny uses his dad’s Civil War battlefield set as a toy. And to get at Greg (who was innocent in the matter), Manny starts calling him “Ploopy”–which Greg hates, though he has no idea what it means.

After an embarrassing incident in church, Greg’s dad finally gets fed up with his sons’ behavior and forces Roderick and Greg to join extra-curricular activities. He forces Greg to join a recreational soccer team. But just like when Greg hated being on the swim team, his dad didn’t give him a choice. “No son of mine is a quitter,” his dad says. He’s wrong, of course–and Greg is determined to prove it.

Greg manages to completely embarrass his father with his performance (and behavior) on the soccer team. And if Greg’s father had been fed up with him before, it was nothing compared to now. (You might even say that the blown soccer game was The Last Straw.) Next thing Greg knows, his father’s decided to send him to military school to whip him into shape. Completely freaked by the idea of being forced to co-mingle (and shower) with kids way older than him, Greg distracts his father from the military school idea by saying he wants to join the Boy Scouts–and it seems to work. Greg is excited–not only has he managed to get his father off the military school idea, at least for the moment–the Boy Scout’s meeting schedule is right during soccer practice, so now Greg can quit soccer, too.

Greg loves Boy Scouts – but when it comes time for the father-son camp out, Greg gets sick as a dog and can’t attend. But his dad is still obligated to go, because he had volunteered as a driver. Things at the camp out go all wrong, and Greg’s dad ends up having to take one of the kids in his charge to the emergency room. After this, Greg’s dad is no longer such a big fan of the Boy Scouts. But Greg still wants to show his dad all the manly things he’s learned to do, so invites his dad on a make-up camping trip.

Again, things go awry–and by the end of the trip, Greg figures there’s no way his dad can be talked out of military school.

Desperate to get the attention of Holly Hills before he goes off to military school, Greg tries repeatedly to make a private phone call to her–but something always gets in the way–not the lease of which is his brother Roderick. Despondent after days of trying, Greg finally gives up on the phone call. Then an unexpected opportunity to “accidentally” run into Holly at the skating rink arises, and Greg gives it one last shot. But again, t’s crash and burn. At this point, military school sounds like it might be as good a place as anywhere else.

On the last day before military school starts, Greg is forced to attend a neighbor’s child’s birthday party, along with his dad and his brothers. It’s here that Greg’s dad makes an unexpected plea–if Greg can get him out of an embarrassing situation, he’ll owe Greg big-time. Through an accidental set of circumstances that Greg’s dad would normally see as Greg getting into trouble, Greg manages to extricate his dad out of his embarrassing situation.

And Greg’s dad is as good as his word. It seems that, according to Greg’s dad’s way of thinking, some favors done for family can be more important than how wimpy one happens to be.

Other Themes

Getting cheated
Greg is pretty despondent that he no longer gets cool toys at Christmas like his little brother, Manny. And Greg doesn’t like it that after buttering everyone up all year, all he gets is “useful” stuff as holiday gifts, and never anything fun.

Unfair/unequal treatment
One example: Greg and his friend Rowley must walk to school because their bus now trasports the kids from the neighborhood right next to theirs. Another example: Manny gets to stay up late and watch television–something Greg was never allowed to do. Yet another example: Manny is allowed to bring all kinds of stuff into church to entertain himself–while Greg was never allowed to do anything of the sort.  (You can see there’s a lot of this–so obviously unfairness is a big issue for Greg.)

Kids getting embarrassed
In one instance, Greg asks his mom drop him and Rowley off at school out back where his friends won’t see. Another example: Greg’s mom embarrasses him when she calls him sweetie in front of the whole class. Yet another example: Greg gives a heartfelt valentine to a girl in his class, and she gives him a makeshift valentine originally intended for someone else.

Kids inconvenienced when dad eats all the junk food
Greg and his brothers end up with the short end of the stick when their mother only byes a limited amount of snacks for their lunches–but their father keeps munching them all up. So Greg ends up with FRUIT in his lunch box instead of the snacks that he normally eats first.

More Funny Situations in The Last Straw

  • Greg is put in charge of doing his own laundry–with repeated disastrous results
  • Roderick and Greg develop code swear-words and coded nasty names for each other that they can use in front of their mom without getting in trouble
  • Greg’s underwear–complete with identifying initials–falls out of his bag and onto the floor at school. And when it’s found, the staff announces it over the loud speaker.
  • Greg attends a sleepover, only to discover that none of the other boys (except him and Rowley) are over six
  • Practical jokes Roderick likes to play on Greg (and how April Fool’s Day is Roderick’s favorite day of the year)
  • Practical jokes Greg likes to play on the guys at school–and on his brothers
  • A father coaching his kid during a soccer game from the sidelines

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