The Format of the BookThe format of Diary of a Wimpy Kid has remained consistent throughout the series. Lined pages and Greg's pen and ink sketches and cartoons work together to make the book seem like an actual diary, or as Greg would emphasize, “a journal.” The fact that Greg has a somewhat goofy outlook on life and is always trying to work everything out to his benefit and justify his actions makes the diary format particularly effective.
The StoryEach of the earlier books in the series focuses on Greg's daily life at home and at school. Each book also tends to focus on a particular family member and Greg's problems with them. In the first book, it's Greg's little brother, Manny, who "never gets in trouble, even if he really deserves it." While Greg also complains about Rodrick, his older brother, Rodrick doesn't take center stage until the second book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. In the third book in the series, the conflict between Greg's father's expectations and Greg's wishes is emphasized.
It's no surprise, then, to find Greg and his mother at odds in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, but there are also some major conflicts with his dad. What is a surprise is to find all the action set in the summer rather than during the school year. According to Jeff Kinney, “I’m very excited about Dog Days, because it takes Greg out of the school setting for the first time. It’s been a lot of fun to write about the Heffley summer vacation.” (7/23/09 media release) However, I think the book loses something by not being set during the school year and not including the usual interaction between Rodrick and his brother.
It's summer and Greg is looking forward to doing whatever he wants, with an emphasis on staying indoors and playing video games. Unfortunately, that is not at all his mother's idea of summer fun. The difference between Greg's vision of the perfect summer and the reality is the focus of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.
My RecommendationLike the other books in the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days will appeal to tweens and teens, in the fourth through eighth grades. Reluctant readers have also found the series very appealing. What makes the series so popular? As I have mentioned before, “I think it’s the emphasis on concerns that tweens and teens actually have, presented with hyperbole and a very funny perspective, that of the main character, Greg Heffley, who narrates the story through his diary entries. Kids really identify with Greg, a goofy, self-centered and funny middle schooler who deals with a variety of problems, many of his own making.”
While Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is not the strongest book in the Wimpy Kid series, I think it will appeal to fans of the series. Kids reading the series know that Greg is over-the-top in terms of being self-centered. They understand the relationship between cause and effect in terms of what happens as a result of Greg's poor judgment and find it amusing. At the same time, Greg's thought processes, while exaggerated, mirror those of many tweens, which is also part of the appeal of the Wimpy Kid series. (Amulet Books, An Imprint of Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 2009. ISBN: 9780810983915)