We Are All the Wimpy Kid

In case you haven’t been in a bookstore lately and noticed the giant displays featuring a crudely drawn boy with a round head and only three strands of hair, author Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has become a megahit among children’s literature. I say “children’s literature,” because that’s the section of the bookstore you’ll find these novels in, probably sharing shelf space with stories about talking cats and gossipy vampires. But although the Wimpy Kid books are undoubtedly funny for grade-schoolers, they are utterly hilarious for adults.

I, a full-grown adult, was practically salivating as I waited to read the just-published fourth installment in the series, Dog Days. I couldn’t wait to see how many moments from my own youth would be recreated within its pages. You see, part of the joy of Kinney’s stories is how relatable they are. There’s a scene in the first book, in which Doug Heffley (the Wimpy Kid) and his best friend, Rowley, attempt to host—and charge admission to—a Halloween haunted house in Rowley’s basement. My friend and I did the same thing when we were kids. It probably goes without saying that neither plan worked out very well.

But even if trying to build a basement theme park isn’t exactly universal, there’s bound to be something in each of the Wimpy Kid books that harkens back to your own childhood. Were you ever forced by your parents to write thank you notes for presents? Did you live through the grueling task of having to sell charity candy door-to-door? Have you ever been embarrassed by your uncool friend’s poor fashion choices? Believe me, you’ll find something.

My daughter read the first book and liked it, especially “the funny drawings.” But she can’t appreciate all the realistically humorous incidents of the plot, because, as a kid herself, she hasn’t lived through them yet. People in the media are always looking for a children’s series that has true cross-generational appeal, the next Harry Potter. I think the Wimpy Kid may just be it.

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