Book Review: Wimpy Kid Dog Days


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From TERRY MILLER SHANNON
KidsReads.com

Oh, poor Greg Heffley! Somehow, he must manage to endure his summer vacation. You see, Greg knows his parents expect him to be outside enjoying the warm weather during the “three-month guilt trip” as he calls it, but he despises the outdoors. He only wants to spend those 90 precious days inside and in front of the television with the blinds drawn and the lights turned off — all the better to play one video game after another.

Greg reflects on how the first part of the summer, when he actually did venture outside, was not exactly stellar. His best friend, Rowley, invited him to go to the local country club swimming pool with his family every day. The first mishap was asking a new neighbor girl to go with them and then watching her find romance with the lifeguard. Moving onward while musing about some people’s lack of loyalty, Greg felt free to kvetch about the service at the country club, griping whenever the waiter forgot to put an umbrella in his drinks. Eventually, Rowley informed Greg that he was no longer invited to go to the pool with his family.

However, Greg’s escapades at the country club pool pale beside his misadventures at the town pool. Since swimmers must walk through the locker room, Greg has seen some sights of men soaping down that have marred him for life — the illustrations of this traumatic event are hysterical.

Meanwhile, Greg and his dad bond over the appallingly saccharine Li’l Cutie comic, which they both despise. But Dad has his issues with Greg’s summer vacation lifestyle, calling him at noon each day to be sure he isn’t still in bed. Greg has had to perfect a chipper wide-awake voice for these occasions, despite the fact that the parental calls always wake him. Dad appears to be a bit grumpy about other things, too, such as Mom’s minute-by-minute calls to him at work, complete with detailed updates on the younger Manny’s potty-training progress.

Greg sometimes hits the nail right on the head. He comments that his big brother Rodrick, being the first born, has had every second of his babyhood recorded for posterity, with photos of Rodrick’s every experience, such as his first time eating peas — and also his second time eating peas. Mom’s documentation of child #2’s progression is much sketchier. The family scrapbook includes a photo of Greg soon after his birth, one of Mom carrying newborn Greg home, and then skips to “Gregory’s sixth birthday party,” followed by “Gregory’s first day of middle school.”

Greg’s wry commentary covers the unexpected pleasures of having your hair cut in an actual beauty salon (TV, tabloids galore, and plenty of gossip), the completely reasonable terror of “the muddy hand,” and a shared commercial venture with Rowley that goes quite badly. One laugh-out-loud interlude describes Greg’s mandatory participation in a Mom-invented “Reading is Fun” club, complete with books she has chosen, including LITTLE WOMEN, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and other classics adolescent boys are sure to find riveting. Greg concludes that a classic must be “at least fifty-years-old, and some person or animal has to die at the end.”

There aren’t many books that I sit right down to devour cover to cover the minute I get my hands on them, but I am compelled to do just that as soon as I discover a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And this latest entry is no exception. As usual, it had me chortling throughout. Whether or not you’re a member of the actual target audience is entirely irrelevant to the amount of pleasure to be had in this worthy addition to the Wimpy Kid series.
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