Book Review of Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

What My Kids Read Reviews Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle Better Nate Than Ever is a new book, just released this year. It’s about a boy who feels out of place in his small hometown in Pennsylvania and dreams of performing on Broadway. He runs away from home to audition for a lead in a musical, and has a wonderful time in New York City. It’s well written and entertaining, but not for my kids.

I found Better Nate Than Ever on Amazon’s bestsellers for ages 9-12, and quite frankly, I would not recommend this for that age range at all. There is strong language and the main character, a thirteen-year-old boy, goes through a homosexual awakening. I gave this book an Extreme Caution rating in Romance/Sex because Nate slowly notices that he is attracted to other men. This is offensive to many parents, and I wanted to be clear that homosexuality is presented as normal and natural in this book.

The author, Tim Federle, plans to release a sequel next year.

The message of this book is to believe in your dream, persevere, and be kind to others.
My Mom-Meter gives Better Nate Than Ever an overall safety rating of 4 (Extreme Caution) for ages 12 and up.

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Book Review of The Lightning Thief (Book 1 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians) by Rick Riordan

What My Kids Read: Book Review of Percy Jackson and the Olympians The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This book review was requested by a reader. The Lightning Thief is the first of the five books in the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. The series is based on Greek mythology, but set in modern day America. Eleven-year-old Percy Jackson discovers that his absent father is actually Poseidon, god of the sea, making Percy a demi-god.

I’ll be honest. This book is the reason why I now review books for my kids. Liam read this as a 7-year-old, and it was completely inappropriate. I had read many reviews, and the only problem Christian reviewers seemed to have was that there were false gods presented as real. I wasn’t worried about Liam suddenly being inspired to worship the Greek gods, so we let him read the book. No one mentioned the completely dysfunctional family relationships that are the heart and soul of Greek mythology. I mean, think about it, many of the stories in Greek mythology deal with someone either trying to kill his father, brother, uncle, etc. and/or sleeping with someone else’s wife. Greek mythology is full of illegitimate children, some dearly loved, some hated by their father or mother, and all of them are fighting and tricking each other… It’s a regular soap opera! Reading them as myths makes them seem more symbolic, but this series brings Greek mythology into the present, and it is just not something a 7-year-old needs to read! In Rick Riordan’s defense, I’m sure the book is written for middle schoolers, not for my little second grader, but parents need to be aware that this book opens up lots of issues about family and authority – much like any study of Greek mythology. So, I’m cautious about this series, but I may let Liam read these books in the next few years. It depends more on what we see him struggling with than the actual content in this book.

*Parents should note that this series is about a boy against the world. He has to save it by himself. Authorities cannot be trusted, and only Percy can save the day with some help from his friends. He cannot even trust his father. In the end of this book, he is betrayed by a friend, so he really is alone in his fight. If your child has a hard time accepting the authority of others, thinking he or she always knows best, this series will definitely reinforce that belief.

My Mom-Meter gives The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan a rating of 4 (Extreme Caution) for ages 10 and up.

Click here to skip to a Plot summary

Click here to skip straight to Potential Discussion Points

Category ratings (click on the category to see specifics):

Alcohol/DrugsModerately Safe: Brief mentions, not glorified at all

BullyingModerately Safe - Brief mentions, not glorified

Disrespectful AttitudesExtreme Caution - definitely questions authority and glorifies that

Gambling:Moderately Safe - mentioned, but not glorified

Gross BehaviorSafe - not much gross behavior

LanguageSafe - no actual four-letter words

Magic/SupernaturalExtreme Caution - it is about Greek mythology, obviously filled with magic

Romance/SexCaution - infidelity is mentioned multiple times. All of the demi-god children results of affairs.

Scary ThemesExtreme Caution - lots of terrifying situations, being attacked by monsters and fighting with weapons

ViolenceExtreme Caution - lots of fighting and near-death experiences

Plot summary of The Lightning Thief: ***Contains Spoilers***

Wikipedia has decent plot summaries for all five books of the series here.

Potential Discussion Points for Parents in The Lightning Thief:

  • Percy finds out that his father is Poseidon, making him a demi-god or “half-blood.” This could prompt a discussion about race. 
  • Percy says “Kronos… didn’t trust his kids, who were gods. So, um, Kronos ate them, right? But his wife hid baby Zeus, and gave Kronos a rock to eat instead. And later, when Zeus grew up, he tricked his dad, Kronos, into barfing up his brothers and sisters…” Mr Brunner answers “Zeus did indeed feed Kronos a mixture of mustard and wine, which made him disgorge his other five children, who, of course, being immortal gods, had been living and growing up completely undigested in the Titan’s stomach. The gods defeated their father, sliced him to pieces with his own scythe, and scattered his remains in Tartarus, the darkest part of the Underworld.” There a lot of family issues going on just in this story. Kronos distrusted his children, so he ATE them. They slice their father up and scatter his remains. Later in this book, you find that Kronos is behind the entire plot to start a war between his three sons, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Once they had torn each other to bits, then Kronos would seize power again.
  • Percy resents his father for leaving him, not marrying his mother, not taking care of them.
  • Chiron tells Percy “Gods – the forces you call the Greek gods – are very much alive.” Percy says “You’re telling me there’s such a thing as God.” Chiron says “God – capital G, God. That’s a different matter altogether. We shan’t deal with the metaphysical… gods, plural, as in , great being that control the forces of nature and human endeavors: the immortal gods of Olympus. That’s a smaller matter.” You might want to talk to your child about whether God would exist in a world with gods. What would the Greek mythology look like if God was ruling over everything (considering that the Greek gods answer only to each other).
  • Several times in the story, Percy does not tell his friends the whole truth. He doesn’t tell his mother about his math teacher (a Fury) attacking him or about the old ladies knitting (the Fates). It nearly kills him. But he doesn’t learn him lesson. He doesn’t tell Chiron or his friends everything that the Oracle said. They needed to know what the Oracle said, but instead they all made mistakes along the way. How do you think the story would change if Percy had told his mom about the Fates? What would have changed if he told Chiron and his friends everything the Oracle said?
  • Annabeth tells Percy that sometimes the gods do not claim their children. She says, “The gods are busy. They have lots of kids and they don’t always… Well, sometimes, they don’t care about us, Percy. They ignore us.” I thought about some of the kids I’d seen in the Hermes cabin, teenagers who looked sullen and depressed, as if they were waiting for a call that would never come. I’d known kids like that at Yancy Academy, shuffled off to boarding school by rich parents who didn’t have the time to deal with them. But the gods should behave better. This book makes the point that there are some parents that don’t care. Is that true?
  • Percy’s mom, Sally, lives with Gabe to protect Percy. Gabe smelled so repulsively human that his presence covered Percy’s scent and kept the monsters from finding him. Percy realizes that his stepfather, Gabe, has abused his mom. “For the first time, I realized something. Gabe had hit my mother. I didn’t know when or how much. But I was sure he’d done it. Maybe it had been going on for years, when I wasn’t around.” Near the end of the book, it is implied that Percy’s mom finally had enough of Gabe’s abuse. She uses Medusa’s severed head to turn him into stone, and sold his statue as art. How does Percy’s mom compare to the gods who are uncaring parents? You might want to talk about domestic abuse with your kids. Do you think that Sally was right to kill Gabe? What else could she have done instead?
  • Percy and his friends get trapped in the Lotus Hotel and Casino. They play and eat, and lose all track of time. Percy meets a boy who has been there since 1977, but hasn’t aged at all. He thinks he has only been there for 2 weeks. Percy finds out that everyone in the casino think they have only been there a short time. When Percy and his friends finally leave, they find that they had been in there for 5 days. You might want to talk to your kids about how real casinos can be addictive like that.
  • When Percy visit the Underworld, “I found myself muttering a prayer, though I wasn’t quite sure who I was praying to. Down here, only one god mattered, and he was the one I had come to confront.” Later, there is a preacher being frisked in the Underworld. “But if he’s a preacher,” I said, “and he believes in a different hell…” Grover shrugged. “Who says he’s seeing this place the way we’re seeing it? Humans see what they want to see….” You might want to talk about how, even in the Underworld, Percy has a hard time believing that there isn’t a God who cares about him and is able to help him. 
  • “I thought of how few people there were in Elysium, how tiny it was compared to the Fields of Asphodel or even the Fields of Punishment. So few people did good in their lives. It was depressing.” You might want to talk to your child about what your family believes about death, judgement, and the afterlife.
  • Percy notices the Hades is an imitation on Olympus, where Hades was banished from. “I realized that Hades must’ve built his palace to resemble this one. He wasn’t welcomed in Olympus except on winter solstice, so he’s built his own Olympus underground. I felt a little sorry for the guy. To be banished from this place seemed really unfair. It would make anyone bitter.” Knowing how evil Hades really is, did you feel sorry for him?
  • “I got the feeling Poseidon really didn’t know what to think of me. He didn’t know whether he was happy to have me for a son or not. In a strange way, I was glad that Poseidon was so distant. If he’d tried to apologize, or told me he loved me, or even smiled, it would’ve felt fake. Like a human dad, making some lame excuse for not being around. I could live with that. After all I wasn’t sure about him yet, either.” Is that the way that a father should treat him son – as if he is not sure if he is happy to have him? Don’t you think that Poseidon had known about Percy for 12 years and should have already made up his mind? Do you think that Percy was okay with Poseidon being distant because Percy liked being independent?

Alcohol/Drugs:

  • “Magic mushrooms” and “bad mushrooms” are mentioned as a joke.
  • Gabe’s poker parties had beer cans strewn all over the apartment. It smelled like “cigars and stale beer.”
  • Gabe smokes a cigar.
  • Gabe spends his money on cigars “and on beer, of course. Always beer.”
  • Dionysius (god of wine) is punished by being appointed director at the Half-Blood Camp. He is not supposed to have alcohol. “‘if there was one thing I had learned from living with Gabe, it was how to tell when an adult has been hitting the happy juice. If Mr. D was a stranger to alcohol, I was a satyr.” Mr. D tries to drink red wine, but he is reprimanded by a rumble of thunder.
  • Dionysus was first punished by being sent to America during the Prohibition for 10 years.
  • “Drunken warriors” are mentioned once.

Bullying:

  • A girl at school throws “chunks of peanut butter-and-ketchup sandwich” at the back of Grover’s head.
  • Ares’ daughters bully Percy as the new kid at camp. They overpower him, and are about to shove his head in the toilet when he uses his power over water to blast them away. Clarrise, Ares’ daughter that leads his cabin, says,”You are dead, new boy.”
  • Ares’ daughter, Clarrise, bullies Percy throughout the book.
  • Percy realizes that his stepfather, Gabe, has abused his mom. “For the first time, I realized something. Gabe had hit my mother. I didn’t know when or how much. But I was sure he’d done it. Maybe it had been going on for years, when I wasn’t around.”
  • It is implied that Percy’s mom finally had enough of Gabe’s abuse. She uses Medusa’s severed head to turn him into stone, and sold his statue as art to pay for her to go to college.

Disrespectful Attitudes:

  • Throughout the book, Percy sees how much the gods cannot be trusted as parents or even as authority figures.
  • Kronos, father of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, ate his kids so that they would not overthrow him. His wife hid baby Zeus, and when Zeus grew up, he tricked his father, Kronos, into “throwing up his kids.”
  • Percy calls a teacher an “old sot.”
  • Percy has a terrible stepfather. Percy refers to him as his “obnoxious stepfather” who has “stupid poker parties.”
  • When Gabe said that there was no such color as blue, Percy’s mom goes out of her way to buy blue food (blueberry smoothies, blue jelly beans, etc.). Percy says admiringly “She did have a rebellious streak, like me.”
  • Percy resents his father for leaving him, not marrying his mother, not taking care of them. “The more I thought about it, I resented Poseidon for never visiting me, never helping my mom, never even sending a lousy child-support check.”
  • Poseidon tells Percy that Percy is like him. “The sea does not like to be restrained.” 

Gambling:

  • Percy’s stepfather, Gabe, has “stupid poker parties.” His poker parties are referred to many times.
  • Gabe expects Percy to give him money for Gabe’s gambling. “He called that our ‘guy secret.’ Meaning, if I told my mom, he’d punch my lights out.”
  • Percy and his friends end up at the Lotus Casino in Las Vegas. They are sucked in, playing games, and lose track of time for 5 days before coming to their senses. It’s actually a good presentation of the dangers of casinos.

Gross Behavior:

  • Kronos, father of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, ate five of his kids so that they would not overthrow him. His wife hid baby Zeus, and when Zeus grew up, he tricked his father, Kronos, into “barfing” out his children.
  • Two of Gabe’s poker buddies “passed gas in harmony.”
  • Grover has a nervous bladder. Whenever ge got upset,  Grover’s bladder acted up.”
  • “Pooped” is used once. “If a seagull so much as pooped on his paint job, he’d find a way to blame me.”
  • “Butt” is used three times.
  • “Pooper scooper” is mentioned once.
  • When Percy chops off Medusa’s head, there is green blood oozing out.
  • Percy plans to “whup some Underworld butt.”

Language:

  • Percy says in anger “I’m going to kill her.” (about a girl bullying his best friend)
  • “Shut up” is said many times throughout the book.
  • “Doofuses” is used once.
  • Percy and Grover sit apart from the class so that it won’t look like they belong with the school of “loser freaks.”
  • “Stupid” is used many times throughout the book.
  • “Oh Styx!” is said once as a curse word. (The Styx is the river that runs through the Underworld in Greek Mythology).
  • A Greek curse is said once: “Erre es korakas!” meaning “Go to the crows!”
  • A bully calls Percy “idiot” and “corpse-breath worm” when he breaks her spear.
  • Percy shouts a Greek curse: “Braccas meas vascimini!” meaning “Eat my pants!”
  • “Jeez” is used once.

Magic/Supernatural:

  • The entire book is full of mythological creatures: gods, Satyrs, naiads, the Minotaur, the Furies, Hades (the Lord of the Dead), dryads, demi-gods, centaurs, Titans, hell-hound, etc.
  • Luck is mentioned throughout the book.
  • Percy thinks that his teacher treats him like he is “devil spawn.”
  • Percy is told that he was hallucinating “demon math teachers.” “Demonic math teacher” is mentioned a couple of times.
  • Percy see the three Fates as three old ladies knitting. One of them cuts some yarn while looking at him, which means someone will die.
  • Percy’s best friend Grover is a satyr.
  • Percy’s Mother, Sally, is turned into golden light when the Minotaur is about to kill her.
  • There is a story of a daughter of Zeus being killed right before making it to the safety of the Half-Blood Camp. She is turned into a tree to protect the camp.
  • Dionysus waves his hand, and a goblet of red wine appears.
  • “Ghastly!” is said once.
  • There is a “Mist” that keeps humans from noticing supernatural things.
  • Percy consults the Oracle, which is a mummy. “Not the wrapped-in-cloth kind, but a human female body shriveled to a husk… A green mist poured from the mummy’s mouth… I heard a voice slithering into one ear and coiling around my brain: ‘I am the spirit of Delphi, speaker of the prophecies of Phoebus Apollo, slayer of the mighty Python. Approach, seeker, and ask.'” The Oracle give Percy 4 prophecies that come true.
  • Percy plans to travel to the Underworld and bring back his mother from the dead.
  • Percy has a ballpoint pen that turns into a sword when the cap is taken off. It also will return to Percy if he loses it.
  • Luke gives Percy flying shoes.
  • Annabeth has a ball cap that makes the person wearing it invisible.
  • Satyrs have the ability to read emotion.
  • A Fury threatens Percy “Hades will have your soul.”
  • Grover wants to earn a “searcher’s license” to go search for Pan, God of the Wild Places.
  • The word “Zombie” is mentioned once.
  • There is a Chimera “It had the head of a lion with a blood-caked mane, the body and hooves of a giant goat, and a serpent for a tail, a ten-foot-long diamondback growing right out of its shaggy behind.”
  • Because Percy is Poseidon’s son, he can breathe underwater and doesn’t get wet in the water unless he chooses to be wet.
  • When Percy visit the Underworld, “I found myself muttering a prayer, though I wasn’t quite sure who I was praying to. Down here, only one god mattered, and he was the one I had come to confront.”
  • There is a preacher being frisked in the Underworld. “But if he’s a preacher,” I said, “and he believes in a different hell…” Grover shrugged. “Who says he’s seeing this place the way we’re seeing it? Humans see what they want to see….”
  • In the Underworld, there are three different judgements for the dead. Elysium: Annabeth says “That’s the place for heroes.” The Fields of Asphodel: for ordinary people, just a boring place. The Fields of Punishment: full of tortures for the wicked. But I thought of how few people there were in Elysium, how tiny it was compared to the Fields of Asphodel or even the Fields of Punishment. So few people did good in their lives. It was depressing.
  • Sally uses Medusa’s head to turn Gabe to stone.

Romance/Sex:

  • A girl laughs about a “naked guy” on a piece of Greek funeral art.
  • Percy’s parents were not married. “See, they weren’t married. She told me he was rich and important, and their relationship was a secret. Then one day, he set sail across the Atlantic on some important journey, and he never came back.”
  • Dionysus was punished for “taking a fancy to a wood nymph who had been declared off-limits.” He says “The second time, well, she really was pretty, and I couldn’t stay away.”
  • Percy is warned that “naiads are terrible flirts.”
  • “What’s the most common thing gods did in the old stories? They ran around falling in love with humans and having kids with them. Did you think they’ve changed their habits in the last few millennia?”
  • Wood nymphs says that they have had “centuries of practice running away from lovesick gods.”
  • There are hints throughout the story that Annabeth has a crush on Luke. She blushes when she talks to him, is shocked when he gives her a hug, and is embarrassed when he sees her in dirty clothes.
  • Athena caught Poseidon with his girlfriend in her temple. Later on, you find out that “girlfriend” was Medusa, and Athena turned Medusa into a hideous woman (whose looks turn people to stone) as punishment.
  • Ares left a shield at an amusement park where he was meeting his girlfriend. “I was going on a little…date with my girlfriend. We were interrupted.”
  • Ares’ girlfriend is Aphrodite. Percy says “I thought she was married to somebody.” Grover asks “What’s your point?”
  • Percy asks “What about Aphrodite’s husband?” Annabeth says “Hephaestus. The blacksmith… he isn’t exactly handsome… He caught them together once. I mean, literally caught them in a golden net, and invited all the gods to come and laugh at them. Hephaestus is always trying to embarrass them.”

Scary Themes:

  • The Minotaur chases Percy, Grover, and Sally (Percy’s mother). Lightning strikes their car, and they barely escape. The Minotaur picks up Sally to strangle her, and she turns to golden light and disappears. Percy thinks she died, but he later learns she is being held hostage.
  • Percy attacks the Minotaur and kills it. Very intense scene.
  • Percy looks into Dionysus’ eyes “I saw visions of grape vines choking unbelievers to death, drunken warriors insane with battle lust, sailors screaming as their hands turned to flippers, their faces elongating into dolphin snouts. I knew that if I pushed him, Mr. D would show me worse things. He would plant a disease in my brain that would leave me wearing a strait-jacket in a rubber room for the rest of my life.”
  • The Furies find Percy and his friends on a Greyhound bus and attack. Annabeth and Grover tell Percy to run, but he stays and fights for his friends. He beats two of the Furies, and they escape.
  • Medusa has a shop full of statues, people she has turned into stone. Percy and his friends are nearly turned to stone by her, but manage to kill her after all.
  • Percy and his friends are caught by Procrustes, The Stretcher, who insists that everyone should be 6 feet tall. If they are too short, he stretches them with ropes, if they are too short, he chops the head and feet off. Percy tricks him, and cuts off his head.
  • The description of the Styx is really creepy.
  • Percy and his friends are almost sucked into the tunnel to Tartarus. “It smelled evil down here. It made me think of things I should even know about – blood spilled on an ancient stone altar, the foul breath of a murderer.”

Violence:

  • Percy says “I’ll kill her” after a girl bullies his best friend (he doesn’t). Percy glares at the girl with an “I’ll-kill-you-later stare.”
  • Percy’s math teacher turns into one of the Furies and attacks Percy. Percy is given a pen that turns into a Roman sword, and he kills the Fury with it. She turns into powder and disappears.
  • Percy attacks the Minotaur by snapping off one of its horns and stabbing it with the horn.
  • There is a story of a daughter of Zeus being killed right before making it to the safety of the Half-Blood Camp. She is turned into a tree to protect the camp.
  • There are lots of references to different kinds of Roman weapons. Percy carries a ballpoint pen that turns into a sword. Ares has a huge sword. Luke has a sword that can kill mortals and immortals.
  • The Furies find Percy and his friends on a Greyhound bus and attack. Annabeth and Grover tell Percy to run, but he stays and fights for his friends. He beats two of the Furies, and they escape.
  • Percy and his friends have to fight Medusa without looking at her. Percy has to chop off her head while only looking at reflections of her.
  • Percy is attacked by Echidna, who is reptilian, and a Chimera inside the top of the St. Louis Arch. The Chimera blasts a hole in the Arch, and Percy falls into the Mississippi River.
  • Percy and his friends are caught by Procrustes, The Stretcher, who insists that everyone should be 6 feet tall. If they are too short, he stretches them with ropes, if they are too short, he chops the head and feet off. Percy tricks him, and cuts off his head.
  • The “Mist” makes human onlookers see guns in the hands of Ares and Percy while they are fighting with swords. It looks like Ares is holding a shotgun instead of a two-handed sword.
  • Percy fights Ares and wounds his heel. It is an intense fight scene.
  • Luke tries to kill Percy by releasing a horrible venomous scorpion to sting Percy. Percy slices it in two, but he is poisoned and barely survives.
  • Sally uses Medusa’s head to turn Gabe into a statue.
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The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

What My Kids Read Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Liam picked up Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid at the school library when he was in the first half of second grade (we started homeschooling in January of that school year). He had already read it before I picked him up from school that day. It is the fictional diary of a middle school boy named Greg, who is trying to be cool and popular, but is really weak and petty. He does not seem to realize his mistakes, and definitely doesn’t admit them. There is a lot of bathroom humor, bullying, and lying (that is justified in Greg’s mind). The parents and all authority figures are clueless.

I know it is a popular series, and that lots of kids like reading these books, but the content raised lots of red flags in this house. I don’t plan to review more of the series unless you would like more reviews of this series.

My Mom-Meter give this particular book an overall safety rating of 4 (Extreme Caution) for ages 8 and up.

Wiki Summaries sums up the plot here.

Here are potential moral issues parents might wish to talk about with their children:

Alcohol/Drug References:

  • The kid that won the anti-smoking campaign “smokes at least a pack a day.”

Bullying:

  • There are lots of illustrations of Greg or other kids being bullied. Greg illustrates what would happen if a bully at school knew he had a diary: the “jerk” seeing Greg with a diary, punches Greg and calls him a “Sissy.”
  • Greg describes the terrible idea of middle school as putting together  kids who “haven’t hit their growth spurt yet mixed with these gorillas who need to shave two times a day.”
  • There is an illustration of a bully hitting two boys with a bag, saying “outta my way, runts!”
  • Greg gives his best friend, Rowley, “noogies” to get him to stop asking if he wants to “come over and play” instead of “hang out.”
  • On Halloween, some teenagers drive by and spray Greg and Rowley with a fire extinguisher. Greg yells that he will be “calling the cops,” and the teenagers chase them to Gramma’s house.  The next morning, the house was rolled in toilet paper.
  • Greg throws apples at a girl, others join in, and her glasses are broken. Greg does not feel sorry for her.
  • A boy gets “hasseled” about a nickname.
  • There is an illustration of bullies saying “It’s great to be me!” as one shoves a kid down.
  • Greg joins the Safety Patrol to be protected from bullies.
  • A bully shoves Greg and calls him “Teacher’s Pet.”
  • Greg chases kindergarteners with worms on a stick.
  • Teenagers pin Greg and Rowley’s arms back and make them eat nasty cheese that has been sitting outside for a year.

Disrespectful Attitudes:

  • Throughout the book, Greg expresses how much he doesn’t want to do anything his mom wants him to do.
  • Greg’s dad is smart, but technologically clueless. He can threaten to take apart the video game system, but Greg knows he can’t do it.
  • Greg’s dad wants him to get outside and play. Greg goes over to his friend’s house to play video games and then runs through a sprinkler on the way home to look sweaty, and then acts out of breath to trick his dad. It works.
  • Greg tries to listen to his brother’s cd that has a parental warning label on it, but gets caught.
  • Greg writes “if you mess up in front of Dad, he just throws whatever he’s got in his hands at you.”
  • Greg puts the video games his friend isn’t allowed to play inside educational game cases, so that his friend’s dad will not know what they are playing.

Gross behavior:

  • Every morning, Greg’s little brother, Manny, dumps his cereal into his potty seat and Greg has to clean it up.
  • While playing video games with his friend, Greg names his cars gross names to distract his friend. He names them “Bad Fart Ahead” and “Diaper Rash Ahead.”
  • Greg’s friend, Rowley, needs a “potty break” while trick or treating.
  • A boy named Preston Mudd was named Athlete of the Year, and his picture had his name underneath it as “P. Mudd.” The kids then called him “Pee Mud.”
  • Rodrick wants a “shrunken head” for Christmas.
  • A kindergartener has an accident in his pants while Greg is walking him home. Greg pretends not to hear him because he “did not sign up for diaper duty.”
  • For his anti-smoking poster, Greg made a grotesque drawing of a face by tracing a picture from a heavy metal magazine. There is an illustration of it in the book.
  • There is a joke in Greg’s comic strip where Creighton the Cretin asks “Doctor, could I have a new butt? My old one has a crack in it.”
  • There is a comic of a boy telling his teacher “You pooped your pants again.”
  • Greg says that something “made me want to vomit.”
  • Fregley chases Greg with a “booger.”
  • Greg writes that, when his class went to the zoo, everyone just wanted to watch animals go to the bathroom.

Language:

  • “Stupid” is used several times through the book. “Stupid questions,” “one stupid word,” and “stupidest idea.”
  • Greg writes that he is “stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons.” Moron is used several times in the book.
  • “Dork” is used several times. A girl writes a note that says “Greg is a dork.”
  • “Butt” is used several times. Greg thinks that girls care if you have a “cute butt,” and two different times Greg writes that someone is “kissing butts.”
  • “What the heck” is said once and “heck” is said once.
  • Girls are called “stinky poos.”
  • “Shoot” is said once.
  • “Dumb” is mentioned several times.
  • Greg’s dad is illustrated saying “Dag Nab.”
  • “Gee whiz” is said once.
  • “Screw up” is used once.
  • “Fool” is said once.
  • “Thank God” is said like “thank goodness.”
  • Boys in a class write out a list of every cussword they know, in order to list out what a robot should not say. No words are specified.
  • Greg’s comic strip character is “Creighton the Cretin” and there is a joke that his name is “Stew Pid” (as in, Stupid). He is also called a “dumb moron.”
  • Greg says that his school is full of idiots.
  • “Jerk” and “Nerd” are both used.
  • Greg imagines telling a substitute teacher “your big fanny granny” and “your slap-happy grandpappy.”
  • Someone calls Greg “Punk.”

Magic/Supernatural:

  • All references to magic are made sarcastically.
  • There are a couple of entries in the diary about Halloween – dressing up and trick or treating.
  • Greg and his friend go to a haunted house before Halloween. There is an illustration of a man’s head on the table saying “Good Eeeveninggg.” They also see vampires and headless people. A guy in a hockey mask chases them with a chainsaw (with a rubber blade).
  • Greg talks his friend into setting up a haunted house in his basement. They plan to have a “hall of screams,” a “lake of blood,” a “bottomless pit,” a “maze of 1,000 skulls,” “rat tunnels,” a “knife alley,” a “hand hall” (not sure if that is a hall with hands reaching out to grab or if it is a hall of severed hands), a “death slide,” and an “acid lake.”
  • Greg writes that you can tell when Halloween is over if people are coming to the door in the pajamas and giving you the “evil eye.”
  • Greg performs in the Wizard of Oz play. There isn’t anything terribly magical referenced, but he does mention the Good Witch and the Bad Witch.
  • Greg wants a video game called “Twisted Wizard.”
  • “I couldn’t believe my luck.”
  • A comic strip jokes that a mom died because her son “stepped on a crack.”
  • Rowley is described as “prancing around like a leprechaun.”
  • Greg writes that he does not know what kind of “hocus pocus” they teach in karate.

Romance/Sex:

  • Greg describes the terrible idea of middle school as putting together  kids who “haven’t hit their growth spurt yet mixed with these gorillas who need to shave two times a day.”
  • Greg considers sitting with a “bunch of hot girls.”
  • The fastest runner in fifth grade “got all the girls.”
  • Greg says that girls in middle school like you if you have a “cute butt.”
  • The most popular boy used to say “Girls are stinky poos!” Greg writes “I have ALWAYS been into girls.”
  • “Cooties” are mentioned.
  • Manny takes Rodrick’s heavy metal magazine to preschool to show a picture of a woman in a bikini.
  • While learning wrestling, Greg is lifted into a “fireman’s carry” and he felt “a breeze down below.” He was then very thankful the girls were not in the wrestling class.
  • The “weird kid,” Fregley, is Greg’s wrestling partner. Greg writes “I spent my seventh period getting WAY more familiar with Fregley than I ever wanted to.” Later in the story, Greg ends up at Fregley’s house, and Fregley wants to play Twister. Greg makes sure to stay 10 feet away from Fregley at all times. That is all there is – nothing overtly sexual, and it may not be intended sexually, but it raised flags in my mind as a mom.
  • Greg wanted a dollhouse a few years before, and his parents argued over whether to give it to him or not. His mom said that he should be able to “experiment,” but his dad said he would not give his son a dollhouse.
  • A boy apologizes in the school newspaper for kissing his girlfriend’s best friend.
  • A girl in a comic strip tells a boy that he’s “not even cute.”
  • A comic strip shows a boy asking a girl for a date, but all you see is the back of her hair. She turns around, and she is actually a dog with nice hair.

Violence:

  • Greg illustrates what would happen if a bully at school knew he had a diary: the “jerk” seeing Greg with a diary, punches Greg and calls him a “Sissy.”
  • There is an illustration of a bully hitting two boys with a bag, saying “outta my way, runts!”
  • In the haunted house, a guy in a hockey mask chases Greg and his friend with a chainsaw (with a rubber blade).
  • Greg talks his friend into setting up a haunted house in his basement. They plan to have a “hall of screams,” a “lake of blood,” a “bottomless pit,” a “maze of 1,000 skulls,” “rat tunnels,” a “knife alley,” a “hand hall” (not sure if that is a hall with hands reaching out to grab or if it is a hall of severed hands), a “death slide,” and an “acid lake.”
  • The poster advertising the haunted house has a drawing of a shark eating someone.
  • Greg compares the announcement that the school will be teaching wrestling to “setting off a bomb.”
  • There are references to professional wrestling moves “pile drivers, and “hitting people over the head with chairs.”
  • Greg hopes to “bean” or “peg” a girl with apples during the play because he wants to get even with her. He starts throwing apples at her, other join in, and her glasses are broken in the process.
  • A boy trips during the play rehearsals and broke his tooth.
  • Greg kicks down his little brother’s small snowman. Then, Greg’s dad takes a snow shovel and smashes Greg’s big snowball to bits.
  • A comic strip jokes that a mom died because her son “stepped on a crack.”
  • In a comic strip, a man steps in a puddle of acid, and has a bone where his foot was.
  • In a comic strip, a skateboarder jumps too high and a telephone wire slices off his head.
  • Kids chant “Fight! Fight! Fight!” trying to get Greg and Rowley to fight each other.

Other Possible Offenses:

  • Greg writes that a boy will lose his popularity ranking because he is getting braces.
  • A teacher tells Greg and his friend that “rock and roll is evil.”
  • Greg’s older brother, Rodrick, is into heavy metal, and has a heavy metal band.

Potential Discussion Points:

  • Greg writes that he is “stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons.” Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that Greg has the right attitude? Do you think he feels that way because he doesn’t have many friends? Why do you think he doesn’t have many friends?
  •  Greg says that there is a ranking system in middle school for how popular you are. He thinks he is 52nd or 53rd, but his best friend is 150th. Potential Discussion Point: What do you think about popularity? Do you think there is a ranking system at your school/with your friends? Do you think that it is a good thing to have rankings like that?
  • Greg writes that he learned from his older brother to “set people’s expectations real low so you end up surprising them by practically doing nothing at all.” Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that is a good philosophy for life? In what ways would it work? How would it fail?
  • Greg believes that his parents show favoritism with his younger brother, Manny. Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that Greg’s parents show favoritism? Do you think it might sound that way because that is how Greg feels? Why do you think he feels that way? Have you ever felt like we care about one of your siblings more than we care about you?
  • There is an illustration that shows Greg throwing away a present from Manny because he is embarrassed by his nickname on the package. Potential Discussion Point: Why was Greg embarrassed by that nickname? Later on, a kid gets teased for that nickname. Do you think it was worth it to throw away the present and possibly hurt Manny’s feelings?
  • Greg’s dad wants him to get outside and play. Greg goes over to his friend’s house to play video games and then runs through a sprinkler on the way home to look sweaty, and then acts out of breath to trick his dad. It works. Potential Discussion Point: Why do you think Greg’s dad wanted him to get outside and play? Do you think Greg thought about that? Have you ever done something like this? Why do you think it is so hard to believe that your parents ask you to do things that will bless you?
  • Greg writes “if you mess up in front of Dad, he just throws whatever he’s got in his hands at you.” Potential Discussion Point: You might want to talk to your kids about abuse, what it looks like, if they have seen parents throw things at their kids, and what to do about it.
  • Greg chases little kindergarteners with worms on a stick, scaring them. He lets his best friend, Rowley, take the blame and lose his Safety Patrol privilege. After that, Rowley does not want to be around Greg. Greg thinks that Rowley needs to learn about loyalty. Potential Discussion Point: Greg spend a lot of time worrying about bullies, but he acted like a bully towards the kindergarteners. Can you think of a time where you did something that you hate when others do to you? What do you think about Greg letting Rowley take the blame? Did Rowley need to learn loyalty or did Greg?
  • Greg’s mom tells Greg to try to do the right thing. Greg thinks the right thing is to let Rowley take the blame. Potential Discussion Point: Greg’s mom had good advice to do the right thing, but she did not know what had happened, so she really couldn’t give great advice. Do you think that Greg really thought that letting Rowley take the blame was the right thing? Why wasn’t it the right thing?
  • Greg says that he has a “back up friend.” Potential Discussion Point: What is a “back up friend?” Is that really a friend at all, if you are only friends when no one else will be your friend? Is that showing love or just using them?
  • Greg gets out of eating the cheese by lying. He says that he has a dairy allergy and the bullies let him go, but Rowley then has to eat the whole piece of cheese himself. Potential Discussion Point: Greg got out of eating the cheese, but at the cost of his friend eating it. Was Greg a good friend to Rowley?
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