Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School | Jeff Kinney

Jeff Kinney has brought Greg Heffley back for abundant shenanigans in the tenth book in the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series, OLD SCHOOL. The DIARY OF A WIMPY KID franchise is a phenomenon taking the world by storm, the website has about 70000 hits a day, there is ten books, two spin-off book series, three movies and a huge YouTube channel. You could say Greg has done well for Kinney. If you have kids, you will want this one in the collection. It is out now from the peeps at Penguin Books Australia and is available in every good bookstore. Enjoy what I think is Kernel Deb’s finest review……..all the best……..JK.

 

diary of a wimpy kid old school book cover image
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School | Jeff Kinney | Salty Popcorn Book Review | Book Cover Image

 

BY DEBORAH DAY

OLD SCHOOL is the tenth outing of the popular DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series, aimed at primary and middle school aged readers. In OLD SCHOOL Greg involuntarily bunks down with his younger brother Manny when his grandfather comes to stay, unhappily unplugs from technology as his mother Pam embarrassingly campaigns for technology free time, and suffers multiple indignities at the recreational camp, Hardscrabble Farm. Along the way author Jeff Kinney takes satirical swipes at aged care, online dating, parental hypocrisy, homework buddy programs, technology free time, brain numbing entry level jobs for teens, Girl Guides, community service programs for young offenders, GPS tracking of Children, foetid children’s holiday camps and urban horror stories. It is quick to read, but best of all amusing, and no doubt likely to make readers smile page after page.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (DOAWK) started out as an online comic strip on the website Funbrain.com in 2004, and subsequently debuted in print in 2007.  The books have been translated into 45 languages, won several literary prizes, and all have been fixtures on the New York Times Best Seller Lists since the first edition was published in 2007.  The series now consists of ten stand-alone book volumes, two spin-off book volumes, a YOUTUBE channel and three movies. According to THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID official website the online version of DOAWK is viewed by more than 70000 people a day with more that 80 million visits and counting. Each print run is growing exponentially with the more recent runs numbering in the millions. DOAWK is a publishing phenomenon.

American born and bred, Jeff Kinney currently lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two sons, where he owns a book shop aptly named “The Unlikely Story”.  The irony of the name is that Jeff, according to his own publicity, is a failed newspaper cartoonist who felt his work was best aimed at adults. Luckily for him after eight years of rejections by various publishing houses he teamed up with Harry N Abrams Inc. and with their guidance refocused his work aiming firmly for the middle-school audience he so deftly parodies.

THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series cleverly taps into the fact that whilst children do not generally wish ill on their friends, they do often feel grateful when bad things happen to someone else, and not to them. For middle school children, aged 11 -13, peer comparison is part and parcel of school and peer interactions and schadenfreude, the often guilty pleasure derived from seeing or hearing about the troubles of others, is an essential part of school and family life. Children are merciless in their ability to prey on the weak. At worst they capitalise on the mishaps of others, and at best often revel in the “epic fails” of their peers.

 

Jeff Kinney author image
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School | Jeff Kinney | Salty Popcorn Book Review | Author Image

 

Greg Hefley, like many children, is not a likeable character. Greg is a spineless, self-serving twerp, and his clueless well-meaning parents, annoying younger brother Manny and self-involved older brother Rodrick do not fare much better as caricatures.  For Kinney the triumph is that he has created a series where despite their flaws the Hefley family’s escapades are entertaining. The “ick factor” is suitably high for the intended audience, which is unsurprising given Greg’s immature shenanigans often involve bodily secretions, moldering food, odoriferous substances, social faux pas, and embarrassing recapitulations.

Rowley Jefferson, Greg’s best friend is the main counterpoint to Greg in the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series. He is essentially a nice, generous, well meaning, fat boy with parents who have sensible rules and who rightly worry that Greg’s antics will adversely affect their son. Much to Greg’s chagrin it is Rowley who often comes out of the story on top, even if he is not unscathed. What is amazing is that Rowley steadfastly remains friends with Greg despite Greg’s fickleness, multiple betrayals and cockups.

Childish vernacular and simple cartoonish illustrations inhabit every page of OLD SCHOOL, adding humour and levity to Greg’s cringe-worthy escapades. Frequent capitalisation of words within the text not only emphasises plot points, but also gives the first person narrative, a cadence like actual speech – a device that enhances the readability.  The real surprise of THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series however, is that it continues to have an authenticity that is hard to fault, which makes me wonder how much of Kinney’s and his sons’ childhoods, has been cannibalised for these plots.

The essential appeal of THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series is that for most of us we feel a little better in our lives as a consequence of enjoying Greg Hefley’s suffering. Better still we can openly enjoy his misfortune because he is fictional and so not feel guilty. OLD SCHOOL’s social criticisms may not be deep but they are both apt and funny. I smiled throughout OLD SCHOOL and counter to expectations enjoyed it much more than the previous nine books. OLD SCHOOL is easy to read and it’s blackly comic litany of Hefley misadventure will no doubt appeal to both new and existing fans of the series.

 

4 Pops

 

 

Deborah is a lifelong lover of books, food, TV and film with a penchant for schlock horror, superheroes, science fiction, black comedy and Asian martial arts stars. She would prefer to skydive than couch surf and is a fan of zombie walks. She can be found plugged into podcasts on long walks with her dog.