Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days by Jeff Kinney is ranked # 7 on Amazon this week and the series now enjoys print runs in the millions. In Dog Days, many kids will relate to Greg’s preference to spend his summer indoors, playing video games…”with the curtains closed and the lights turned off.” We’ve all been there as parents of school age kids–it’s hard to compete with the mind-sucking video games and 24 hour access to cartoons, movies and reruns of 80 sitcoms. (My own current addiction to Bubble Spinner makes me much more empathetic to the whole video game time loss phenomenon.) I laughed out loud at Greg’s Mom — who is full of “great” suggestions for the summer. She even starts a reading club…of course that doesn’t go very well. Her book selections for a bunch of boys are also so clueless (Anne of Green Gables, Little Women), it’s hard not to see Greg’s point of view.
I also get the appeal of the illustrations that have a very current look to them and make the book more accessible to kids that would otherwise shy away from a 200 plus page book. All good–I get it.
Most of the debate about these books has to do with the less than stellar moral and ethical compass of the main character Greg. Yes he’s decidedly lazy, anti-reading, anti-doing anything really beyond watching tv and playing video games. Yet, I’m confident that kids can appreciate the exaggerated nature of his character- rather than believing that he is someone to emulate. In fact, Greg readily gives them someone that they can be better than (it’s not too difficult). In a recent interview by Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times, Jeff Kinney shares that “[i]f there is a lesson in the book, it’s to do the opposite of what Greg does.” I agree with Mr. Kinney–kids are pretty smart. They get it, much the same way we watch Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm…it’s a train wreck at times, utterly painful - but entertaining (most of the time).
Here’s my problem and perhaps it’s because I am now watching my son Matthew, a high school junior, get ready for the grammar portion of the SATs.
Here are some quotes from the book:
“But I spent the first part of the summer at my friend Rowley’s pool, and that didn’t work out so good.”
“Me and Rowley were better off without a girl hanging around, anyway.”
“I told Mom me and Rowley are just kids and it’s not like we have salaries or careers or whatever.”
I don’t mind that Greg is lazy, has no ethics and no ambition in life–but could we clean up his grammar? I don’t think it would take away from his persona – and at least on the grammar front, he could do the right thing.
My mother–always the teacher at heart– suggested that kids should “edit” the book and correct Greg’s grammar. Not a bad idea–certainly sounds more enjoyable than the worksheets we all used to get to learn these rules.