My Pick For Best Kids' Chapter Book of 2007
(but adults are encouraged to read it too!)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid just made my list of Top 10 Books of 2007. After listening to my fourth grader rave about the book, which he found on the internet of all places because it’s been published there, I ordered a hardcover edition of the book. I know that kids who find a book they love will read it over and over again, and the choice as a parent is whether to buy it in hardcover or buy it in paperback over and over. Since paperbacks don’t always stay in print and hardcovers sometimes appreciate dramatically in price, I opted for the hardcover copy.
It came in today. My son sat down with it immediately. Even though he’d read the whole book on the internet, he loved the idea of being able to hold it in his hands. He flipped through the pages and made certain all his favorite jokes were still in place, which was amusing to watch because I’ve done the same thing.
One of the amazing things I’ve learned since is that the whole book is available on the internet. You can find it at www.wimpykid.com. Feel free to preview the whole book if you like, the author has generously placed it there, but it’s gone on to be a #1 seller in hardcover and paperback all the same. Free on the internet is one thing, but books and portability are best.
Since most of the television shows my wife and I watch on Friday nights were suspended or repeats and I needed a mental vacation after the stress of pounding the keyboard all day, I picked up Diary of a Wimpy Kid and started turning pages. I didn’t stop till I’d devoured the last page.
The book is a flat-out laugh riot from page one to page 217. With pencil drawings that look like they were made by an early elementary school student, it was also an incredibly fast read.
The story is about Greg Heffley, which is kind of like Jeff Kinney if you look at it right. Greg’s in sixth grade and isn’t exactly a social butterfly or even much accepted by the other kids. In fact, he’s lucky if they notice he’s alive.
Greg’s got a regular mom and dad, but Jeff Kinney paints them so vividly with just little details that you can’t help feeling you know these people. His dad has a violent streak when it comes to punishing Greg on the spot. Greg even points out when there are good times to screw up and bad times to screw up. Hint: a good time is when his dad is reading the paper; a bad time is when his dad is building a brick wall. Line drawings accompany this. Greg’s also got an older and younger brother that helps drive him crazy at home. The younger brother, Manny, doesn’t really speak, but he’s into everything.
Greg’s older brother, Rodrick, has his own band and generally stays out of Greg’s life. However, the relationship between the two comes to the forefront every now and again. Rodrick doesn’t mind putting something over on Greg or making him look bad.
The things that make this book work the most, and kept me turning pages, are Greg’s insights on life. He’s not a good kid. He’s not a bad kid either. He’s just a kid. One part scared, one part “that’s not fair”, and one part selfish. It’s the selfish part of Greg that brings about observations about popularity, such as his acknowledgement that he’s number fifty-something popular among the boys, but he’s due to move up a spot because one of the other boys is about to get braces.
His efforts to get out of trouble without having to actually take responsibility for his actions are amazingly dead-on for the age group Kinney is writing about. The fact that Greg’s unwilling to give up trick or treating is good. The touchstones of elementary school life, like the Cheese that’s haunted the outdoor basketball court for a year and gave birth to the Cheese Touch myth that actually ended up making one kid movie way, are here as well.
There are literally hundreds of reasons to buy this book. Number one is that it is the perfect gift for kids who are reluctant readers. Christmas is upon us. Kids are going to be thrown in cars for trips to see relatives, and this book will guarantee some quiet time – except for snickers and outright belly laughs.
I had an absolute blast with it. Before I knew it, I was committing the unpardonable sin of reading sections aloud to my wife while she was watching television. Normally I enforce that one to keep my own television watching manageable. However, I was soon that guy. The book is just too good not to share, so here I am sharing it with you.
Do your kid a favor and go buy the book. But make time to read it yourself. This is one that I think a lot of people will read and tell friends about. Then mark February 2008 down as the release month of the second book, Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. I’ve already got mine on order.