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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Comments

  1. I think your review is pretty much right on. I read the book when it was at the height of its popularity. My nephew wanted it for Christmas, so I decided to check it out first. Needless to say, after reading it I got him a different book for the holiday. :) I figured that reinforcing bad attitudes, disobedience, rudeness, deceitfulness, etc. was probably not the way I wanted to go.

    • Jennifer says:

      Thanks, Becki! I had expected the books to have some potentially offensive bathroom humor, mild language, etc., but I was surprised that the plot did not have a redeeming message. I’d love to pick your brain sometime and find out what books you recommend for this age range!

  2. This book is pefectly suitable for kids stop worrying

So what do you think?

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