Sunday, December 4, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Blessing or Curse?

With the recent release of the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I thought I would address this diary/cartoon style book which has gained in popularity.  I personally think this type of writing is a wonderful new addition to children's literature.  It has certainly encouraged a whole population of reluctant readers to enjoy picking up a book.  They are invested in these characters, they laugh, they care what happens next and they are reading!   At the end of the day, kids only get better at reading by doing it, and as they improve their book choices will broaden!

That said, I think some of the problems with series such as Wimpy Kid, is that their cartoons appeal to an audience that is younger than their content.  Some parents have an issue with their elementary school kids being exposed to language and situations that are geared toward middle school.  I understand that, and that is why I am so excited to see more authors using these formats to write books for all age levels.

This week I have some books that are more age appropriate for a younger set, and some that fill the void when your child has finished Wimpy Kid!  Hope they have as much fun reading them as our family!

Title:          Justin Case
Author:     Rachel Vail
Target:      Grades 2-4
About this book:

The main character, Justin Krzeszewski, is full of heart, and of worries.  He is a typical third grader struggling with sports, friends and doing well in school.  Will he ever remember what 8x3 equals?  Why does he have to learn the violin?  Will he get a dog?  Will he stop being afraid of dogs?  The list goes on and on.... but the humor is always there
Why I like it:

Justin Case is told in a Diary format so if feels like a very manageable read.  Justin’s worries are the same ones that every 3rd grader encounters, but may not always want to share!  The book is written with alot of heart and humor and is perfectly appropriate for elementary school!
Who this book is for:

Kids who like the diary format of reading will enjoy this. Each page has one or two daily diary entries, with small illustrations thrown in.  However, it is not an action driven book so if your child only thrives on adventure, as opposed to character driven books, this may be a stretch.
Final thoughts:

Justin is such an appealing character that his challenges will ring true to the boys reading it!

To purchase, go to your local book store, or click here: Justin Case

Title:          The Popularity Papers
Author:     Amy Ignatow
Target:       Grade 4-6
About the book:

Lydia and Julie are in 5th grade.  With one year until middle school, they start a journal to observe, analyze and replicate the things that make girls popular.  The format is a journal, passed back and forth, in each girls handwritting, heavily illustrated with the girls’ observations.  While the style is reminiscent of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, it is truly its own book!
Why I love it:

This book is clever and funny.  The girls are dealing with the daily issues that 5th graders manage (boys, camping trips, misunderstandings with friends) While you may get nervous that their attempts to be popular send the wrong message, fear not.  Their attempts are laugh out loud funny and the messages from parents and peers are absolutely appropriate!  There is no questionable language/comments and the grammar is all correct (some problems I have heard parent’s complain about with Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Dork Diaries!)  I also love that Julie has two dads and it is not an issue in the book.  I like it when books simply handle it as this is the way it is!
Who is it for:

Girls looking for a fun read in the style of Diary of a Wimpy Kid
My final thoughts:

A great read for girls.  While the style may be similar to the Diary books, the content is not!

To purchase, go to your local bookstore, or click here: The Popularity Papers

Title:          Big Nate in a Class by Himself
Author:     Lincoln Peirce
Target:      Grades 3-6
What this book is about:

Nate is a sixth grader, and everything seems to be going wrong for him.  When he opens a fortune cookie that tells him he will “surpass all others,” it leads to an interesting day.  His fortune does come true, but in the most unexpected and funny way!

Why I love this book:

This book is actually laugh out loud funny (yes you caught me...gym shorts, a drill sergeant PE teacher and a surprised sixth grader...enough said)  It had me in stitches.  The author has actually been writing a long standing weekly comic strip about Nate for years, so he is a fully developed character
Who this book is for:

For any child who loved Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate will certainly delight.  The good news is that Big Nate is quite a bit more age appropriate for the younger  grades.   While Nate is a sixth grader, his anecdotes are pretty tame as he navigates  through a day at school, where he seems to get detention at every turn.  However, there are a few times where characters say “shut up” or “butthead” so if this is something that bothers you then you should probably wait until your kids are older to buy the book.  Additionally, there are a few grammatical errors, but they are not rampant.  
Final thoughts:

This is an easy fun read, similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  With a haiku to the Cheez Doodle what is not to love!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here: Big Nate In a Class by Himself

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