Diary of a Wimpy Kid
A book review for parents
This realistic book is the first in the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series by Jeff Kinney and is published by Amulet Books, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, also known as Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley's Journal, is an illustrated novel written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Greg Heffley decides to keep a journal, not only because his mother wants him to, but also because he wants something he can give to people who ask him questions once he is rich and famous. In handwritten type and through the use of cartoon illustrations, Greg details his day-to-day life as a middle school student and gives his opinion on bullying, why girls like boys, where to sit on the first day of class, how to draw cartoons and numerous other topics, such as the cheese touch.
The cheese touch is a middle school ailment similar to cooties that comes from touching an old piece of cheese that rests beneath the basketball hoop on his school's playground. If you touch it, you have the cheese touch until you touch someone else. Then they have it.
At home, Greg is a middle child. Greg's older brother, Rodrick, plays practical jokes on him; Greg thinks his younger brother, Manny, is spoiled. He believes that his parents don't understand him. They do unforgivable things, such as telling him to stop playing video games and go outside. When that happens, Greg goes to someone else's house and plays video games.
Greg's best friend is Rowley. They became friends because Greg felt sorry for Rowley. All the mean things that Rodrick does to Greg, Greg does to Rowley, along with a few ideas of his own. One day, Greg goes too far and lets Rowley take the blame for chasing kindergartners all the way home, instead of walking them home, as a Safety Patrol person should. As a result, Rowley stops hanging out with him. Greg does not understand why. But later, when his classmates ask how the cheese under the basketball hoop disappeared and Greg knows that a group of older bullies made Rowley eat it, he tells his classmates that he (Greg) threw the cheese away. Although his class now flees his cheese touch, he and Rowley resume hanging out together.
From Greg's point-of-view, his mother is seen as crazy for wanting him to write his feelings in a diary, but he appreciates her help when she steps in to keep a chain-saw guy from chasing him on Halloween night. His mother uses her authority to force Greg to go out for the school play. After he pits his father and mother against each other, they argue, but he still has to go out for the play. His mother brings a bouquet of flowers to give to Greg after the play. But when he destroys the entire performance by not singing and throwing apples at a classmate, his mother tosses the flowers in the trash on their way out.
When Greg asks for a Barbie dollhouse for Christmas (he wants to use it as a fort for his soldiers), his mother is OK with him experimenting with different toys. After his parents argue, he is not given the dollhouse.
When Greg has a personal problem, his mother does not ask for details but tells him it's important to do the right thing. As a result, Greg does what is right for him, not others. When he tells her that he did the right thing, once again, not going into any details, she takes him out for ice cream.
From Greg's perspective, his father is not normal because he gets up early on Saturdays to clean the house. His father badgers him about not playing video games and doing something that requires physical movement. When his father shuts off his console and tells him to go outside, Greg goes to Rowley's house and plays video games. Greg thinks his dad is smart but doesn't have common sense and isn't capable of dismantling Greg's game system.
Greg's father loves Halloween. He fills up a trash can with water and throws it at teenagers who walk past their house.
To show Greg that he shouldn't have destroyed his younger brother's snowman, his father destroys the enormous snowman-base that Greg and Rowley made. His parents let his older brother listen to heavy metal music with parental warnings on them, but not Greg. When his father punishes Greg for doing something wrong, he throws whatever is in his hands at Greg. When his mother punishes Greg, she takes a few days to figure out his punishment.
In many ways, Greg feels that his parents slow him down, but he tries to tolerate them and their ways. When his parents do not immediately give him an expensive weight set that he asks for, Greg concludes that, once again, he has to take charge of the situation.
Rowley's dad monitors his son's games and actions. He also stops the boys from scaring others in their homemade haunted house at Halloween.
Mrs. Norton, the director of the school play, whispers the lines to students instead of forcing them to memorize the script.
Other Belief Systems
Greg thanks his "lucky stars" that he is on the other side of the gym from the girls because his wrestling outfit doesn't completely cover him during wrestling matches in gym class.
A lot of mild variations of words, such as jerk, stupid, dumb, dork, heck, shoot, freak, and butt, are used. Even milder expressions, such as stinky poo, screw loose, and suck it up, are also employed. Greg gives his friend Rowley noogies for asking if he wants to play instead of saying hang out.
A side comment is made that girls may like boys because they have cute butts. Younger brother Manny brings Rodrick's magazine with a woman in a bikini lying on a car to show-and-tell at his day care.
Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards, 2009; Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, 2009
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Why did Greg put his video games in his brother's educational CD covers when going over Rowley's house?
Why do parents not allow inappropriate video games?
Who benefits because of these rules?
What are your family's rules regarding video games?
- How does Greg treat his brothers?
How do Rodrick and Manny treat Greg?
How should brothers treat each other?
How do you treat your siblings?
How does God ask us to treat those in our family?
- What are the different ways that Greg's parents discipline him?
Do we have different ways of disciplining you?
Why do you think we discipline you?
- How was Marty's campaign and Greg's run for treasurer different?
Which campaign had more integrity?
- What did Greg and Rowley do to make money around Halloween?
What didn't they think through?
What is something you have done that you didn't fully think through?
- Did Greg take responsibility for his and Rowley's Halloween business?
Why did Greg feel wronged?
Does he take responsibility for the Safety Patrol incident?
What confuses him about Rowley not wanting to hang around him?
How did he take responsibility for the final cheese touch incident?
What were the consequences?
In which of these three incidents did Greg feel best about his actions?
Who is responsible for your actions, even when you're doing them with someone else?
- When Greg flunks his quiz, why does he blame Patty?
Should the answers for the quiz have remained on the bulletin board?
Would looking at that bulletin board have been cheating? Explain.
Whose responsibility was it to study for that quiz?
Whose fault was it that Greg flunked the quiz?
- How does Greg frame Archie Kelly?
Why would being called "Bubby" be too humiliating for a middle school boy?
How does Greg feel when he sees Archie being bullied because they think his name is Bubby?
Have you ever let someone else take the blame for something you did?
How did it make you feel?
What would God want you to do in Greg's situation?
- What did Greg's family intend to give to someone through The Giving Tree organization?
What did they end up giving?
Have you and your family given presents to people in need?
What is the best gift you've given them?
- How did Rowley break his arm?
Whose fault was it?
Why does Rowley's broken arm upset Greg at school?
How does he try to get the same attention that is given to Rowley?
Whose attention have you wanted at school?
Were you jealous like Greg?
How can prayer for that person help you have the right attitude?
- Why does Greg join the Safety Patrol?
Why does Rowley join the Safety Patrol?
When Greg is kicked off the Safety Patrol, what does he miss?
If you were to join the Safety Patrol, why would you be a member of it?
Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review for Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.