Yesterday morning I thought I’d just glance at the first couple pages of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules before I ate breakfast. An hour later I’d finished the book and was feeling woozy, proof that I probably should have been reading and eating at the same time. (If only books could feed more than just the mind and the soul…)
Obviously, though, the correct conclusion to be reached here is that the sequel to the bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid is indeed a worthy follow-up. In fact, I think I laughed even harder reading this one. Gareth was working on his computer in a different room at the time, with no idea what I was doing. By the time I’d reached page 30 (an absolute winner of a page) I was guffawing so loudly that he had to see what all the fuss was about. Once he realized the cause of my laughter, of course, he didn’t want me to ruin the fun for him, so I wasn’t allowed to tell him much. For the same reason, I won’t tell you much either.
I will say, though, that it’s such ridiculous fun to read books narrated by a complete idiot. No, really! It’s Greg Heffley’s total conviction that he’s right about everything when in fact he’s 100% clueless that make these books so wickedly entertaining. You hear Greg say X but his cartoons show you Y. Most of the time I don’t derive much pleasure from laughing at people’s stupidity, but if the people in question appear on the printed page AND are middle school students (in the prime stupidity of life), I’ve got two reasons to be so motivated.
Don’t get me wrong, I love middle school students. Or at least I love most of them, most of the time. But they do make themselves pretty easy targets for ridicule from those of us who’ve already been through that awkward, trying-on-a-different-personality-every-day, loud-all-the-time-and-don’t-realize-it, completely-distracted-by-your-peers stage of of life. I worked for three amazing, eye-opening summers at a very reputable enrichment program for "gifted and talented" kids ages 12–16 and during that time had PLENTY of opportunities to shake my head at the naiveté of almost all kids in this developmental stage, even the brightest of them. Our program staff actually had an acronym we used amongst ourselves when referring to the clueless antics of our charges—G.M.A., which stood for Gifted, My A**.
In the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Greg Heffley doesn’t exactly qualify as academically gifted, but he clearly thinks he’s socially gifted, which is why it’s so easy to read these books while shaking with laughter and thinking, "G.M.A.!" on every page. What I love and find encouraging, though, is that even kids who are Greg’s age can read these books and have the same basic reaction (minus the acronym). The kids who find these books funny (which seems to be all of them) are the same kids who are seeing that Greg is often cruel, is usually clueless, and almost always gets his comeuppance. Maybe after watching Greg tread those paths before them they’ll be slightly disinclined to follow in his cruel and clueless footsteps. Or perhaps they’ll just be more inclined to read, write, draw, laugh at themselves. Whatever the results, I consider these books an absolute win, and I can’t wait to turn kids on to this new one!
Not that they’ll need my help finding it. In my nine years of bookselling, I have NEVER seen a book sell itself as well as Diary of a Wimpy Kid. NEVER. Not even close. Each kid who sees the cover and reads the title picks this book up, carries it to their parents and (often without even looking inside) says, "I want this one." No joke. It’s remarkable. We’ve sold 171 copies since it first came out in April. Normally I’d credit that kind of success to our staff handselling the book, my shelf-talker singing its praises, and the fact that we included it on our store’s list of summer reading recommendations. In this case, though, I’d wager that most of those sales were the direct result of a great cover, a great title, a great concept and (most importantly) a great book. My hat’s off to Jeff Kinney and Amulet Books (part of Harry N. Abrams) for those accomplishments.
To see how eagerly kids are anticipating Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, see how they responded to the book’s announcement on Jeff Kinney’s blog. ZOO-WEE MAMA!