Binge Reading the Wimpy Kid series

 

I decided since nearly every review would be nearly the same, I’d save us all some time and just write about the last 6 books in one post.  Instead of writing about each book individually, I’ll just write the 5 things I enjoyed most about this series as a whole.

  1. They are FUNNY!  There were several parts of each book where I was actually laughing out loud at Greg’s antics.  I found myself taking pictures of the pages and sending them to my friend to convince her to read the series.  I appreciate any book written for children that can entertain me the way this series did.
  2. The illustrations add to the humor, story, and readability of this book.  Some of the illustrations go along with what is happening in the story, while others provide a little extra humor.  I also like the way Kinney is consistent with his illustrations of characters.
  3. Greg, despite being egocentric (typical middle schooler), is likable (or even lovable).  You want him to come out on top, even though he is clearly the sand in a teacher’s or parent’s bathing suit.  He manipulates people and situations to get his own way, but that makes him believable and relatable as a character.  I remember doing the same things when I was his age.
  4. They are fast reads.  I’d say each book took me no more than 2 hours tops, although I never got to sit down and read one beginning to end.  Some books took several days due to the holidays and my own children.  If my students are looking for a fast read, these are great recommendations, because they are also very engaging.
  5. The AR level is in the fifth grade range.  I’m not HUGE on reading level, because I think students should read for enjoyment, and book level often limits their choices.  However, it is a bonus that there are inferences to be made and higher level vocabulary in these books.  There are also moral dilemmas that students would have to think about in order to relate to the story.

I think it goes without saying that I enjoyed the series, and I do take back my snobbery.  I didn’t think this series had as much to offer, but I am now eating my words!  I recommend it to students, but I also think any adult who can relate to children would also enjoy it.

 

Cabin Fever Book 26 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Third Wheel Book 27 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Hard Luck Book 28 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Long Haul Book 29 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Old School Book 30 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Double Down Book 31 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

 

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (paperback)

by Jeff Kinney

AR Level 5.2, 3 points

 

Since this is the fourth book in the series, I won’t bother with “what I liked” and “what I didn’t like” other than it wasn’t my favorite, but I did appreciate the semi-lesson at the end.  Greg realized he and his dad have a decent relationship and they don’t have to agree on everything.  I also like the way he reflected on his mom’s photo album: “the person who takes the pictures is the one who gets to tell the story.”  This is a great example for my young writers during Writers Workshop and their personal narratives, or even the autobiographies I make them write each year.

Book 23 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw (hardcover)

by Jeff Kinney

AR Level 5.4, 3 points

 

Of the 3 Wimpy Kid books I’ve read, The Last Straw may be my favorite so far.  Greg decides to help others with their New Year’s resolutions since he is already near perfect and sees nothing to work on himself.  I’m sure you can see how that goes.  He also makes a decision about Holly Hills, gets  himself into some more shenanigans involving soccer, his brothers, Rowley, and even military school.  Again, it doesn’t have the problem-solution plot line that most books I read have, but it is entertaining and made me literally laugh out loud several times.  I will say it again- I was wrong about this series.  While it may not have higher level vocabulary nor a complex plot, it is great for looking at voice and point of view, analyzing character (Greg), and author’s style.

What I liked about this book was the way Greg, while not someone I would want to be friends with or have in my class due to his ignorant self-seeking behavior (I say that in the most loving way), is intelligent and creative enough to get himself in and out of pickles, and keeps me laughing.  I’m regretting not reading with post-its (as I lecture my own students to do), because there were certain pages I actually wanted to quote, but now I can’t remember which ones.  I appreciate Greg’s creativity and I think my students could take a lesson from him.

What I didn’t like about this book… it wasn’t my favorite book in the world, but it was my favorite in the series so far, so I have no complaints.  🙂

Book 21 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Land of Stories

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The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell (paperback)

by Chris Colfer

AR Level 5.0, 15 points

 

Have you ever read a book that you WISHED you liked?  That’s The Land of Stories.  With rave reviews from my students, the fact that I couldn’t keep it on my shelf to the point of ordering extra copies, and it being written by a Glee star, I thought, this has to be awesome.  I’m going to love it.  Oh my gosh.  I wish that were true.

This is the story of a set of lonely twins, Alex and Conner (Alex is a girl).  Their father died tragically, and their mother is financially challenged.  School isn’t going great for them, and then they come across a magic book that transports them into a magical land where fairy tales and characters become real.  They  meet nearly every character from a fairy tale you can imagine and go on an adventure that has all the drama, mystery, adventure, and even romance you could want from a fairy tale.  It ends with a few “shockers” (unless you’re a half way-decent hypothesizer, in which case, it’s just exactly what you expected to happen).

What I like about this book is the fact that it is so engaging for my students.  I was so excited to hear them fighting over the books, and I even had to buy a new, hardcover copy of the newest book, because I had a student who was so excited to read it, she couldn’t wait.  If it gets readers to read more, exposes them to fairy tales they might or might not know much about, or engages them in mystery, I’ll stock it.  Just don’t make me read the rest of this series.

What I didn’t like about this book was the fact that it was so predictable.  Seriously, as soon as they found themselves in the fairy tale world, I knew what was going to happen at the end, and I was totally right.  I also didn’t like that it wasn’t very realistic.  I’m not talking fairy tales, because duh- they’re fairy tales.  No such thing as fairies or talking wolves or magic mirrors.  I mean, I spend my day with fifth and sixth graders, and their dialogue was not that of sixth graders.  The things they said, the emotions they felt, etc. were not relatable.  I hope I’m the only one who feels this way, though!  I will continue to encourage my students to read this series, because it really is engaging for someone their age, but it was not the book for me.

Book 34 of 40 (year 2)

A Tale Dark & Grimm

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A Tale Dark & Grimm

by Adam Gidwitz

AR Level 4.6, 6 points

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book by a new author that I really enjoyed.  Adam Gidwitz writes in a way that reminds me of Lemony Snicket in that he speaks to the reader, giving the reader warnings to discontinue reading or clear the room of small children.  I like when the author interacts with me, because it pulls me into the story.  Reverse psychology apparently works on me.  Well played, Gidwitz.

A Tale Dark & Grimm follows Hansel and Gretel.  The witch with the home made of candy does appear, but Gidwitz takes us through a mash of various fairy tales, in which Hansel and Gretel did not actually come from a poor family, but from a king who stole his queen.  Together, they journey through forests and villages, fighting witches, dragons, the devil, and themselves.  I found myself looking forward to the author’s voice more than what would happen to Hansel and Gretel, because of his technique of warning me.

What I liked about this book was that it was kind of gory.  You don’t often read a children’s book where people are beheaded or killed in a gruesome or morbid way.  There were a few parts that actually grossed me out or made me think that it might not belong on my classroom bookshelf, but then again, that’s probably what would keep my students wanting to read more.

What I didn’t like about this book was that I couldn’t figure out what was based on a real fairy tale and what was the author’s imagination.  I do not recall reading a story where a little child when to Hell and tricked the Devil by dressing up as his grandmother, but I’m really not as well-read in Grimm’s tales as I should be.

I definitely plan to read the 2 books that come after, In a Glass Grimmly and The Grimm Conclusion.  This is an author I’d like more of.

 

Book 20 of 40 (year 2)

The Battle of the Labyrinth

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Percy Jackson and The Battle of the Labyrinth (paperback)

by Rick Riordan

AR Level 4.1, 12 points

This is book 4 of the Percy Jackson series.  Like in every book of the series so far, Percy faces a monster at the beginning and flees in a traumatic and urgent fashion.  The difference is (and we will get to this again later), he was going to a school orientation set up by Paul Blofis and then meeting Annabeth for a pseudo-date.  So he is confronted by an empouri masquerading as a cheerleader, then heads out in a hurry, with the assistance of Rachel Elizabeth Dare, a mortal he met in book 3.  The story follows their continued battle against the rise of Kronos and his “helpers” (monsters, mortals, half-bloods, etc.).  Annabeth leads the quest through Daedalus’s labyrinth to find Daedalus and stop Luke from leading Kronos’s army to destroy the camp.  We find out what happens to Nico and Bianca, we meet Pan and Grover’s his girlfriend, and my favorite part… Percy Jackson proves himself to be a normal teenage boy with typical feelings for the ladies.  Calm down, it was totally rated PG… 13 (brief kissing involved).

What I liked about this book was, of course, how Percy’s relationship with Annabeth heated up a bit.  Throw in a mildly attractive Rachel Elizabeth Dare and Calypso and you’ve got yourself some really tough situations for an awkward young man.  What got me really excited, though, was Poseidon showing up to Percy’s birthday party.  Totally unexpected.  There are a lot of predictable aspects to this story, but that threw me, and I actually really appreciated more facetime with the gods, especially Percy’s dad.

What I didn’t like about this book… there isn’t a whole lot to say that I haven’t already mentioned in my other posts.  It isn’t a challenging novel.  It doesn’t get me as emotional as Harry Potter did.  However, I can see how it would attract students, especially non-readers (or readers who hate reading).  It isn’t my favorite series, but I am looking forward to the last installment.  Rick Riordan is an entertaining writer who knows how to write for kids.

Book 13 of 40 (year 2)