Saturday, November 14, 2009

REVIEW: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Kinney, J.  (2009).  Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days.  New York:  Amulet Books.


217 pages.

30-Second Plot Summary:  Greg is back and it's summer vacation.  During the summer he'll watch his first horror movie, get a pet, go swimming at a country club, create a huge bill after drinking a ton of fruit smoothies and have to find a job to repay the bill.  In this book, Greg finds himself in a fight with his best friend, Rowley and having trouble bonding with his father.

I have to admit, my feelings were luke-warm toward the first two Wimpy Kid books.  I had trouble with Greg, since I didn't really see him as a redeemable character.  While I appreciate the need for more non-angelic, realistic portrayals of kids out there, Greg is just a wee-bit too selfish for my taste.  Then The Last Straw was published and I laughed out loud multiple times.  The same is true for Dog Days.  This is one of the first times I've felt a series has improved as I've kept reading it.  Of course, part of this could be the subtle critiques of some children's books that Kinney has incorporated into the stories.

Dog Days addresses issues of trying to make reading fun.  Greg's mom starts a summer reading club.  When she finds fault with all the books Greg and the other boys want to read she starts choosing children's literature classics and the result is anything but fun.

Part of what makes this series marvelous is the honesty of Greg's experiences.  Many kids deal with the tensions Greg faces:  dealing with siblings, feeling like the father of your best friend doesn't want you to be friends with the friend, needing money, etc.  But added to the honesty Kinney adds a layer of humor on just about every page.

While these books can be accused of only representing a certain demographic of readers, Dog Days does include a subtle commentary on class.  Greg's mom is clearly trying to save money over the summer.

I also liked that this book challenged gender roles a little more than the previous books have.  Greg enjoys going to the beauty salon.  He likes talking and gossiping with the lady there.  Of course, his mom still frowns at his choice.  But then Greg is also willing to ride a bike intended for girls.  That made me happy.


While these books are definitely enjoyable for young readers, it wouldn't take much encouragement to get most readers to start keeping their own diaries, following Greg's example.  And since Dog Days takes places completely over summer vacation, it students could keep track of their summer (or winter!) in diary form as well.

In terms of conversation starters, an adult can discuss father-son bonding, getting and taking care of pets, the difficulties of having a summer job, the difficulties of having your best friend's parent dislike you, fame and the comparative quality of tabloids and newspapers.


"For me, summer vacation is basically a three-month guilt trip.
Just because the weather's nice, everyone expects you to be outside all day "frolicking" or whatever.  And if you don't spend every second outdoors, people think there's something wrong with you.  But the truth is, I've always been more of an indoor person" (p. 1).

"Whenever Mom finds any tabloids at Gramma's house, she takes them home and throws them in the garbage.  Last week I fished one out of the trash and read it in my bedroom.
I'm glad I did.  I found out that North America will be underwater within six months, so that kind of takes the pressure off me to do well in school" (p. 20).

"Last summer Rowley spent the night at my house, and we slept in the basement.
I made sure Rowley took the bed that was closest to the furnace room, because that room really freaks me out.  I figured if anything came out of there in the middle of the night, it would grab Rowley first and I'd have a five-second head start to escape" (pp. 25-26).


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