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.
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:
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