Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 4 — Dog Days — Book Review and Summary

by Nindo Mom on May 4, 2011

The Meaning of the Book’s Title: Dog Days

In this fourth addition of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, the phrase “dog days” refers to two things. First, it identifies the time frame during which this book occurs, which is during the “dog days” of summer. Secondly, it refers to the subject of family dogs, which comes up several times during the book: wanting dogs, having dogs, hating dogs, giving dogs away, and the troubles dogs cause.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Dog Days – Review and Summary

As we begin Dog Days, Greg reveals that he’d much prefer to spend his summer sitting inside–shades drawn and playing video games–rather than braving the sunshine. Greg’s mom tries convincing him to go to the pool, but he’s already been soured to that activity after his experience earlier that summer with his friend Rowley at the country club pool.

Greg thought the country club pool was pretty great until the employees started slacking off–by forgetting to put a little umbrella in his fruit smoothie, for instance. Greg told Rowley’s dad about the problem–but instead of appreciating Greg’s effort to help, Rowley’s dad thanked him by forbidding Greg to come to their country club any more. Greg figures is fine by him–except that the public pool never seems quite the same after having had the country club pool experience.

Then comes another blow–Greg’s mom informs the family they’ll be skipping their annual trip to the beach this summer due to a shortage of funds. Greg has always hated touching seawater, anyway, because all the sea creatures go to the bathroom in it, and all that gross stuff is just floating around.

Greg may be satisfied with just lounging around the house this summer, but Greg’s dad doesn’t like that he gets to sleep late. Greg figures his dad also hates that his mom keeps calling him at work to tell him lots of unimportant stuff–like what Manny did in the potty that afternoon.

When Greg’s mom gets a new camera for her birthday and starts taking a bunch of pictures, Greg recalls that some of Manny’s photos when he was younger had actually been staged. Now Greg ponders how many of his own childhood photos were of events that never really happened and were simply set up by his mom.

Because Greg’s mom decides he’s starting to look “shaggy” (which is pretty funny, considering he has a grand total of three little hair sprigs sticking out of the top of his head), she takes Greg to Bombshells–the same hair salon where she and Greg’s grandmother go. Greg is initially horrified, but soon he’s loving the place. The gossip is awesome, and they expose him to the wonderful world of soap operas.

Greg’s mom isn’t loving that her son is watching soaps now, so keeps turning the TV off when he’s watching them. Looking for something to do, Greg invites Rowley over, and the two start going through Greg’s brother Roderick’s room. There, they find horror film called Hello, You’re Dead. Since Greg’s not actually allowed to watch stuff like this, he arranges for Rowley spend the night so they can watch the flick in secret.

In the film, a muddy hand is crawling around and killing everyone, which freaks Greg and Rowley out so badly that they end up sleepingĀ  in the bathroom. And when Greg’s dad finds them the next morning, explanations are in order.

Greg’s Mom Thinks Real Entertainment Is . . .

The punishment for watching the forbidden horror movie didn’t come in the expected way, but it DID come. Thursday, Greg and Rowley watched the horror flick; by Tuesday, payback time had arrived–in the form of Greg’s mom’s Great Idea.

Greg’s mom decided that, since Greg and the other boys his age watch too many violent movies and play too many video games, they don’t understand what real entertainment is. So she’s starting a summertime reading club called “Reading Is Fun.” She invites some boys from the neighborhood, and they show up–obviously because their moms made them come, just like Greg’s mom is making him.

Because Greg’s mom doesn’t approve of the books the boys bring to the Reading Is Fun club, she provides some more appropriate selections that she calls “classics.” Greg figures that for a book to be a classic, it has to be at least fifty years old and someone has to die at the end of the story.

After a couple of days, Greg’s the only kid still showing up for Reading Is Fun meetings–again, because his mom makes him. It’s while he’s trying to finish his latest reading assignment that Rowley and Rowley’s dad show up at the front door. It turns out that Greg and Rowley had ordered over 80 bucks worth of fruit smoothies at the country club earlier in the summer, and Rowley’s dad just got the bill.

After discussing the situation, Greg’s mom and Rowley’s dad decide that the boys will have to pay off the tab themselves–even though they’re only kids and don’t have jobs. Which to Greg’s way of thinking is completely unfair.

Greg and Rowley decide to start their own business to bring in the cash–a lawn care business. But it ends up not working out because they don’t actually own any lawn care equipment, don’t know how to start a lawnmower, and can’t drive themselves to jobs. Plus, Rowley quits because Greg wants him to do all the grunt work.

Wracking his brain for ideas, Greg wonders if they should try a snow removal company in the winter. Or if he should borrow the money from Manny. Or if he should help himself to some of the money in the donation box at church….

Greg’s problem is finally solved when his birthday arrives and he gets a wad of cash from his relatives–which Greg’s mom immediately confiscates to pay off the fruit smoothie bill.

Other difficulties Greg Heffley encounters during the summer include:

  • being forced to spend more time with his dad
  • having a play date with Fregley
  • getting his fish eaten by Roderick’s fish
  • trying out for–and losing–a commercial audition for ice cream
  • going to the water park with his family, but having it close due to rain as soon as they get there
  • the Heffley family getting a dog who annoys everyone–except Greg’s dad, who can’t get the dog to give him any attention
  • back-to-school blowout sales being advertised in the middle of the summer
  • Greg’s dad getting Greg’s back-to-school clothes at the local dime store
  • Greg trying to impress the lifeguard Holly Hills at the public pool–with limited success
  • the Heffley’s giving their new dog away
  • being horrified by the harry men showering at the public pool
  • Greg going with Rowley and his family to the beach– and having a miserable time
  • Greg finally getting to go on the Cranium Shaker at the beach–the ride that Roderick had told him so much about
  • Greg and Rowley camping out all night outside a video game store

And at the end of the summer, it should come to no surprise to most readers that Greg’s mom creates a “staged” photo album covering the dog days of summer that makes events seem quite a bit different than they actually were.

Themes of Diary of a Wimpy Kid — Dog Days

Photographs say what we want them to

Example: Greg’s mom setting up shots when Greg and Manny are younger–as well as the events of this summer

Pets can cause unexpected predicaments

Examples: Greg’s fish is eaten by Roderick’s fish; the Heffley’s new dog is much more trouble than anyone expected

Things going wrong while on vacation

Examples: the Heffley’s can’t take their normal beach vacation due to a shortage of money; the Heffley’s get rained out at the water park before anyone gets to swim; Greg causes big trouble while on vacation with Rowley’s family and gets sent home early


Many of Greg Heffley’s summertime experiences during the Dog Days of summer are ones that many of us can relate to. As usual, Greg often struggles with what events mean, so does not always handle things in the best possible way–and is often confused when things don’t work out as planned. But we can also see that he’s a pretty good kid, at heart.

We “hear” Greg’s thoughts through the narrative, just as we see what the characters are actually saying. It is often hilarious to see the conflict between Greg’s interpretation of what’s going on compared to what we see is actually happening.

Kids reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days may easily interpret events in the way that Greg does–except that kids will have the benefit of seeing how things really are from the illustrations. Kids will see how situations can be more complicated than they at first realize. And when kids get this message through Greg, a favorite character, they’ll likely be more receptive to the message than if they’d gotten it in a real-life stressful situation. After all, they may see a lot of Greg in themselves, so won’t feel threatened the way they might if the message was coming from 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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