I'll admit it: I was a holdout. I don't know if it was the fact that it was SUCH a big deal, or if it was the cartoony element (back before cartoons in books were a common as they are now - in other words, it was something new), or if it was the fact that when I opened it up to a random page, I got the page where he plays a prank on his best friend and my thought was, "This Wimpy Kid is a sucky friend, which is the opposite of awesome." Let it suffice to say that I was not eager for Kidlet Number One to discover these books.
Until he did.
It was one of those days. We were in a bookstore. We were waiting to see the amazing Libba Bray (more on that later!). The line was long. He was wilting. I told him to go pick a book - any book - from the pre-teen section and if he liked it, he could buy it with his allowance. And he came back with... Dun-dun-DUUUNNNNN: THE BOOK WHICH WAS NOT NAMED:
To my discredit, I argued with him. I told him that I hated that book with a passion that burned with the power of a thousand suns. (Yes, I actually said that. About a book. In a bookstore. I am a cretin.) But standing there surrounded by book-lovers, reason (and shame) prevailed. We can read this together, I thought. And then we can talk about it.
And then I laughed pretty much nonstop for over 45 minutes. This book is hilarious. Here's the blurb from Amazon and Goodreads:
It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.
In book one of this debut series, Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion.
Author/illustrator Jeff Kinney recalls the growing pains of school life and introduces a new kind of hero who epitomizes the challenges of being a kid. As Greg says in his diary, “Just don’t expect me to be all ‘Dear Diary’ this and ‘Dear Diary’ that.” Luckily for us, what Greg Heffley says he won’t do and what he actually does are two very different things.
From the moment Greg says that he specifically told his mother not to get him something that said "diary" on it (and then follows it up with a cartoon illustrating his fear: a bigger kid beating on him because of it), I knew that this was a book that would speak to the hearts of every middle-grader out there. Through Greg, Jeff Kinney gives us a picture of Middle School that echoes the universal Middle School experience: trying to find your niche in a universe that seems to have no niches left. From the Halloween mishap to the Christmas play shenanigans, Greg speaks for all middle-schoolers out there as he navigates the perils of hallway bullies, fights with his best friend, unreasonable parental expectations, and clueless teachers.
There are still definitely things about Greg's behavior that I didn't like: he treats his supposed best friend pretty badly from the very beginning, and he sneaks around a couple of times breaking his parents' rules. But these are things that echo the true middle-school experience, and while I don't like them and I don't want my kids feeling like it's okay to do these things, I do think that this book is a better way to bring up these issues and to illustrate why it's important to treat our friends well and listen to our parents, even when we don't know why they make the rules that they make. In other words, this book has some great talking points in it, and I encourage parents to read this book with their kids so that you can ask them questions and discuss those moments and find out what they think about Greg and his escapades.
As for me and my kid, we're already looking forward to laughing our way through the second book in this deservedly popular series.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney can be found in pretty much every bookstore that sells books for kids, or online at IndieBound here, at Amazon here, and (for Canadian readers) at Chapters Indigo here.