Diary of a Wimpy Writer
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Diary of a Wimpy Writer

Diary of a Wimpy Writer

Do you know what your child is reading?

by

A new hero is quietly taking our nation by storm, capturing the adoration of children everywhere. He doesn’t battle villains or save the world, in fact he’s just a wimpy kid.

The “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is currently the best selling book on Amazon.com, and #1 New York Times Bestseller. Libraries can’t get enough copies, and the publisher, Amulet Books, increased their initial printing of the latest book, “Dog Days,” from three to four million.

So what does Greg Heffley, the wimpy middle-schooler, do that makes him so popular with millions of American children? Nothing much, besides cheating, lying, stealing, picking on any kid even smaller than him, and making fun of everybody in the process.

To get a good feel for the Wimpy Kid series, I opened up to a random page to see what our hero was up to. Chirag, a little Indian kid in Greg’s class, was supposed to move back to India over the summer. Despite a big goodbye party, the family ended up staying. Greg decides that it’s a great opportunity to play a trick and pretends like Chirag doesn’t exist anymore. Soon he gets the whole class to go along with him and little Chirag becomes a living non-entity to the entire class. When Chirag tries to entice a classmate into admitting that he exists by promising him a corn dog, Greg says, “Hey, there’s a corn dog floating in the air,” grabs it, and eats it in two bites.

Greg defends himself and says:

“Before you go and say I’m a bad friend for teasing Chirag, let me just say this in my own defense: I’m smaller than about 95% of the kids at my school, so when it comes to finding someone to pick on, my options are pretty limited.”

The running theme of the series is that Greg is little kid who gets picked on, so anything he does to others is understandable under the victimhood license. That license, parenthetically, is the same justification given by terrorists, people who commit widespread fraud, and sexual predators.

Parents are outraged at the book's moral underpinnings, while PhDs are praising it for “its fresh look at the authentic challenges of middle school youth.”

In another episode, Greg and his friend Rowley decide to make a haunted house. They put up signs advertising that there will be real sharks, with admission at 50 cents. A big group of gullible little kids show up, so they tell them that 50 cents was a typo and it really costs two bucks. When the first little kid pays up, they tell him to crawl under a bed and then start screaming at him from both ends of bed until the kid rolls up in a ball crying. By now, Rowley’s father comes down and breaks up the whole venture. The moral of the story?

“The good news is, since Rowley’s father didn’t believe us, [that they were running a haunted house] he didn’t make us refund Shane’s money. So at least we cleared two bucks today.”

Trail of Controversy

Following the spectacular success of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series is a trail of controversy. Parents are outraged at the book's moral underpinnings, while PhDs are praising it for its “realism” and “its fresh look at the authentic challenges of middle school youth.” To excuse himself from the uproar, the author, Jeff Kinney, claims that he really wrote the books for adults and was surprised by how children took to it. However, even after its popularity amongst 8-12 year olds became clear (these books are in the juvenile section in every library I called), he kept writing them with the same tone and flavor.

In a recent New York Times article about the series, Dr. Joshua Sparrow, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, said “It really captures the struggle of a child that age trying to figure out what it means to be a person. I think it can help parents tune into what kids know and how they think. It captures what a child is able to get and what’s beyond their reach, and how you have to adjust your expectations because they are still a work in progress.”

He’s joined by Dr. Lawrence Rosen, a pediatrician who founded the Whole Child Center in Oradell, N.J., who says he has talked about the series with his third-grade daughter, who says she likes that the main character is “not perfect.”

Not perfect? The kid is totally diabolical! Everything he does is just plain bad. He treats his parents with contempt, his friends as “morons, jerks, nerds, and dorks,” has no compunctions about stealing, lying, or hurting anyone’s feelings, and never makes a single good judgment call. He’s vindictive, jealous, malicious, lazy, and insensitive. If this book “captures what a child is able to get and what is beyond their reach,” it might be time for all parents to clock out, because we need to lower our expectations to the point where we can’t even expect the least bit of integrity, sensitivity, or goodness from our children.

Stop selling our children short!

There are also many parents who say, “Well, at least my kids are reading.” The internet is filled with testimonials about children who were frustrated readers until they got their hands on a Wimpy Kid book. This is also disturbing since people are settling for mediocrity, “I’d rather he not read it… but at least he’s reading.” Why settle? We can give our children the best of both worlds. There are books that are both interesting and moral, they just take time to find. (See below for a few recommended books.) People can also help their child learn to love reading when they are young, so that the child will be interested in reading quality content on their own.

One episode from the latest book is particularly instructive in understanding the whole phenomenon. Greg wants money, so he starts a lawn mowing business. Being lazy, he does a haphazard and incomplete job. When the customers complain, his father re-mows the lawns for free. Of course, Greg insists he’s done nothing wrong. “I’m trying to find a way to earn money without doing any actual work,” he explains.

Perhaps this episode aptly describes author Jeff Kinney. Sure, a guy with his talent could work a bit harder and come up with books that would be interesting and compelling without giving our kids a terrible role model, but, “he’s trying to find a way to earn money without doing any actual work.” The same goes for the theory of “well at least my kid is reading.” That can be translated as, “I’m trying to find a way to get my kid literate without doing any actual work.”

It’s sad to think that libraries, often elementary school libraries, across the nation are buying multiple sets of the Wimpy Kid Diary series. As a parent whose oldest child is just beginning to read, it reminds me of how important it is to monitor what my child is reading, and what messages she’ll be subconsciously absorbing.

All children need heroes, people they can emulate. Let’s be proactive in deciding who they are.

6 Books Parents Endorse & Kids Devour

Click on an image below to purchase a title.

Holes
by Louis Sachar

The Mysterious Benedict Society
by T. L. Stewart


Chains
by L. H. Anderson


The Giver
by Lois Lowry

Tuck Everlasting
by Natalie Babbitt

The Goose Girl
by Shannon Hale

And if you're having trouble getting your child to read, why not read with them?

Published: October 31, 2009


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Visitor Comments: 49

(49) Anonymous, February 27, 2014 6:25 PM

My kids are grown-up but I would never had let them read these dreadful books.What happened to the classics?There are also many many books out there that show children characters who display good character traits and teach moral lessons to our children, while they are enjoying reading or being read to

(48) Anonymous, December 12, 2013 2:21 PM

wimpy kid

yes discussion with all books movies and events must always be discussed with our children , perhaps such a book and character which in the larger sheme of things are things children right or wrong do or deal with pending on which character your relating to and wouldnt your relatablity come from your raising or moral standard set by parents stc although i found the ending of this book a great conversation and bouncing board to to see where my own children thought of characters behavior ,and not to mention the decietful character you pointed out also recitfies some of his behavoir and helps his friend arent those the lessons we want to give our children yes there are some people who do wrong but there is always hope for improvement? or how the friend whom was being the victim did not continue to associate with the wimpy kid and rebukes him [non violently] hmmm

(47) gabriel, December 12, 2013 2:09 PM

one mom who read

i agree that after your article i actually looked at book and watched movie [ahh alittle cheating ] due to my concern with ur review and i was in agreence but the end of movie the child makes amends to his friend and rectify s most of his actions

(46) CJ, October 2, 2012 10:58 PM

WHAT???

Ok, for one, Greg never calls any of his friends “morons, jerks, nerds, and dorks". Second, he never stole anything. So you have no reason to rant about this topic. I love the books. So you better shut up and keep your opinion to yourselves from now on.

(45) saddened, March 5, 2011 7:44 PM

the mom of a wimpy kid

My daughter has been behaving just like the character in that book, and we have been trying to figure out where her head is at that she could be like this. She never was before,She has always struggled socially, and while we were at first happy to see her more involved and sure of herself socially,after a few months we were appalled at her unusual and loathsome behavior. And the comments coming out of her mouth. Her justification of her behavior was even more concerning. And just tonight I was praying for understanding as to how to re-awaken her personal integrity and morality as well. I was most concerned when I spoke to a psychiatrist regarding our concern, and he responded by telling us we were too strict and needed to allow her to express herself. Thats what kids are like at this age. HUH? So after reading your article I feel I know have an idea where her role model came from, because she has everyone of the books, and they looked so innocent, and she has always been that 'wimpy kid' that these were probably the only books of hers I didn't read through. Just happy she was so happy with them. She even commented on how they inspired her. Noticed her being more outgoing, and now this. I am sick over it. And while the author cannot be solely blamed specifically for giving our kid the blue print for her moral destruction, he and all the fools who support this sad state of lack of expectation from our kids are certainly proving themselves to be fools. In the end, thank heavens, there is hope, Thank you for the heads up.

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