Kinney, J. (2007). Diary of a Wimpy Kid. New York: Amulet Books.
Instead of getting him a notebook that says “Journal” on the cover, Greg’s mom gets him a diary for him to record his daily life. And despite the wrong name on the cover, Greg does write and draw—about his brothers, his best friend, Rowley, and the various plans and pranks he makes and pulls.
For being a bestseller and being supposedly loved by children everywhere, I wasn’t that impressed with Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Don’t get me wrong, I like it structurally. It pushes the definition of a picturebook, which I'm all about. Plus, having cartoons with the text on every page can ease reluctant readers into engaging with a longer book. The cartoons add a lot of humor. My problem is with the character of Greg, himself. He’s kind of a jerk for most of the book, a funny jerk, but still a jerk, a jerk that many kids will love. And that’s the last time I’ll type “jerk”…for now.
Having said that, Greg’s voice and the experiences he narrates do feel very authentic. My one critique of this aspect is the fact that the text assumes white middleclass male attitudes. One attempt at challenging this is the fact that Greg does express some interest in a toy that is typically considered “more appropriate” for girls.
Overall, it is a fun quirky read that many kids can relate and enjoy. Plus, since it's a fast-growing series, a student can be inspired to keep reading.
Activities to do with the book:
Sharing this book (or the rest of the series) with a class could kick-off a plan to have students keep journals throughout the school year. They could follow Kinney’s example and include illustrations.
Also, inspired by this book, students could plan and make their own haunted house (or haunted gym, as the case may be) and host it for the younger students or families in the community.
A teacher could also try to provoke a conversation on whether or not students like Greg as a character and why. Do they think he’s really wimpy?
“First of all, let me get something straight: This is a JOURNAL, not a diary. I know what it says on the cover, but when Mom went out to buy this thing I SPECICIALLY told her to get one that didn’t say “dairy” on it” (p. 1).
“The best I can figure is that I’m somewhere around 52nd or 53rd most popular this year. But the good news is that I’m about to move up one spot because Charlie Davies is above me, and he’s getting his braces next week” (p. 7).
“I knew Rowley’s dad wouldn’t be crazy about the idea, either, so we decided to build the haunted house in his basement and just not mention it to his parents” (p. 53).