A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
No talk in this installment about how Greg's keeping this diary and how it helps him. But he does join the yearbook committee and learn how to manipulate pictures on his computer -- in an unflattering way, of course -- but it may encourage kids to get creative with fun photo software.
It's a mixed bag of messages. Hard Luck is heavy on the potty humor, for one. When Greg gets treated to ice cream for good grades and his brother with bad grades gets ice cream, too, Greg says, "It taught me that even if you try your best, someone is just gonna mooch off your hard work." But then, after relying on a Magic Eight Ball to tell him what to do, he realizes that "the BIG decisions are up to me," and one of those is showing compassion toward a friend.
Positive Role Models
Oh, Greg. He's always doing something a little bit rotten, like using a Magic Eight Ball for a test or altering school yearbook photos of kids he doesn't like. That's where the humor lies. Luckily, he's got a mom who keeps him in line, and he's not willing to do anything too reprehensible; he thinks about buying an old science fair project but changes his mind. He's a boy growing into his conscience, and it's clearly taking some real time and effort.
Violence & Scariness
Greg draws pictures of getting knocked to the ground by one bully and being chased by scary neighborhood kids and a dog. One of Greg's wild toddler cousins goes to the emergency room for stitches, and another finds a razor and shaves with it. Mentions of a great-grandmother's death in the past.
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"Jerk," "bunch of baloney."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hard Luck is the eighth regular installment in the Wimpy Kid graphic novel series. Reluctant readers are huge fans of this bestselling series, which parents either tolerate because they're thrilled their kid's reading or dislike because the main character, Greg, is always doing something a little bit rotten. Here Greg uses a Magic Eight Ball for a test, alters school yearbook photos in unflattering ways, and lets his grades slip because he's lost all his books and doesn't tell anyone. He's clearly a boy growing into his conscience -- slowly -- but he does the right thing when it really counts, like deciding not to buy another kid's science fair project and showing compassion to a friend at the right time. Violence is pretty low with a few pushy bullies. It's all the potty humor that stands out in this one. Pants are pulled down a few times showing stick cartoon legs in small underwear; Greg's sitting on the toilet a few times, as well. Then there's poor Dad, who has a dog pass gas in his face. Ewww.
Is It Any Good?
Hard Luck doesn't hold together as well as the other installments. Here's the true test of whether HARD LUCK is up your alley: Does the picture of Greg's dad getting tooted on by Grandma's dog send you into hysterical laughter, or do your eyes immediately roll skyward? If this prompts you to stop reading this review, the book is not for you. Is Jeff Kinney running out of gas/ideas? The quarreling-relatives storyline is a real low point; kids don't care about that stuff.
But there are always little redeeming moments, like all the things Greg finds in his mom's closet. Moms will like this mom with her parenting books and backup stuffed animals and the way she lays down the law to get Greg to bring up his grades but types his paper for him after he turns things around. Maybe that will sink in a little with kids once they're done laughing at the tooting dog.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.