A book review for parents
This realistic book is the second in the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series by Jeff Kinney and is published by Amulet Books, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Rodrick Rules is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Gregory "Greg" Heffley's mother buys him a second diary, which he calls a journal. From the beginning to the end of it, Greg has a difficult time with his older brother, Rodrick, who is a bully. After Rodrick finds Greg's first journal, Greg gets it back and hides in the bathroom at his grandfather's retirement center to keep Rodrick from getting it again. Too late, Greg realizes he is in the women's bathroom. Rodrick holds this embarrassing secret over Greg and forces him to do many things because of it.
Greg spends a lot of time getting out of things. To get out of swim practice, he hides in the locker room. To get rid of the Cheese Touch, which he got at the end of the last journal and makes classmates run from him, he gives it to an unsuspecting new kid at the school. He attempts to get out of studying by sitting next to smart kids and out of book reports by writing about short stories instead of books. He is OK with copying other people's papers, but won't buy an assignment from anyone unless he is desperate. The only person he can't trick or bully is his brother Rodrick.
The one time Greg compliments his brother is when they have to rake leaves for their grandmother and are being paid per bag. Rodrick shows Greg how to only partially fill the bags so they run out of bags before the job is done and are paid for each bag. When Rodrick throws a party because their parents are gone for the weekend, he locks Greg in the basement for the duration but then makes Greg help him clean after it is over. The next time their parents leave town, the boys have to stay with their grandfather.
Because Greg won't videotape Rodrick's band at the talent show, Rodrick tells everyone about Greg's embarrassing secret. Instead of being teased and humiliated at school, guys treat him well, and he is suddenly popular. The original story that Rodrick told was placed in the women's bathroom in a retirement home but as one person tells another, the place becomes the bathroom in the high school girls' locker room.
In the end, Greg realizes that Rodrick isn't nice to him, but Greg doesn't want his brother to fail science because he didn't turn in a science project; therefore, Greg does the project for him.
When Rodrick gives Greg a ride home in his van, Greg is tossed around the back of it because he has to sit with Rodrick's band instruments. Greg prays that the instruments don't hit him in the head, but in this use, it really refers to "hoping" versus a prayer to God. There is mention that the family goes to church. Greg forgives Rowley for ratting on him when a situation turns to Greg's advantage after the truth is told.
Greg's father forces him to join the swim team, which Greg hates. His father doesn't like when Rowley comes over because he thinks Rowley is clumsy and doesn't want him destroying his miniature Civil War battlefield in the basement. His father sneaks out of watching romantic movies with his wife so he can work on his battlefield. His father goes to the mall on Saturdays and takes Greg with him, not to spend time together, but to get away from the noise that Rodrick's band makes at the house. Instead of telling teens to leave his property, he puts on classical music via a boom box, and soon they all leave. Their father can't stand the idea of Rodrick not writing a good paper for school, so he rewrites and types all of Rodrick's papers. When Greg needs a middle school paper completed, his father tells him to do it himself. When his father can't stand the relatives in his house on Thanksgiving, he turns up the thermostat, and they eventually leave.
For swim practice, Greg's mother makes Greg wear skimpy racing trunks that used to belong to Rodrick. Everyone else wears swim trunks, and Greg is teased for wearing the racing trunks. His mother does not forget his "screwups" and reminds him of them. She writes a parenting column for a local newspaper and discusses Greg's failures and problems, using his name. Greg thinks this is one way she gets back at him. He blames the reason he lies on his mother. When he was young, she deceived him by pretending to call the dentist and ask about dentures because Greg refused to brush his teeth. This lie made him brush his teeth.
Because Greg has promised his mother to be honest, he goes around being rude to others (honest from his perspective). When his rudeness hurts his mother, she no longer requires him to keep his promise not to lie. His mother went with Greg to Leland's house to watch Leland (a neighborhood baby sitter), Rowley and Greg play Magick and Monsters. In the game, she keeps Greg from buying Meade and doesn't support his killing of so many monsters. Still, she encourages Greg and Rodrick to play the game together.
Greg's grandmother shows favoritism toward Manny, Greg's younger bother, and his grandfather shows favoritism toward Greg.
Other Belief Systems
Greg writes a paper that includes the evolution of people versus the evolution of a moose. He also illustrates the evolution. People get arms, and the moose get horns that are worthless in Greg's opinion.
Mild words, such as jerk, sissy, dumb, geek, stupid, and freaked out, are used in a derogatory way.
After Greg calls Rodrick a jerk for making him sit in the back of the van, they get into a fight on the front lawn. Their mother makes them draw a picture of what they did wrong so they won't do it again. Rodrick draws a picture of pushing Greg over a cliff to a waiting shark.
Greg is relieved that Rowley, his best friend, sits on the tin-foil ball with toothpicks sticking out of it that Greg's younger brother made for Greg. Greg's mother wouldn't let him throw it away, and he was afraid he might sit on it himself some day. He does not empathize with Rowley's pain.
Greg slugs Rowley for suggesting that they could be "diary twins" after Rowley buys a journal. Greg justifies treating other boys at his school poorly because he isn't big or tall and doesn't have many victims from which to choose.
Greg's male classmates see him as a hero because of the rumor that he not only gained access to the high school girls' locker room, but also was there for some time. In actuality, he accidentally entered the women's restroom in his grandfather's retirement center.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Why doesn't Greg care to hear about Rowley's vacation?
If he finds other people's vacations boring, what should he do when they talk to him about them?
What should you do when someone talks about something that you aren't interested in hearing?
- What was Rowley and Greg's code?
How did it work for them?
Have you and your friends ever had a secret code?
Did it work?
- What word would you use to describe Greg and Rodrick's relationship?
How does their mother try to get them to do more things together?
Does it work?
What will it take for Greg and Rodrick's relationship to improve?
- What kind of friend is Greg to Rowley?
What kind of friend is Rowley to Greg?
Are you more like Rowley or Greg when it comes to friendship? Explain.
- If you had a new journal, what is the first thing you would write about?
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.