A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while there is none of the usual kind of objectionable content, every character, both adult and child, behaves badly, and often dishonestly. Humor centers around siblings tormenting each other and friends manipulating, lying to, and stealing from one another. Plus kids hand out nasty Valentine cards, parents lie to their children and steal their snacks, students avoid learning, and teachers behave unfairly and unreasonably.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Is it any good?
There are two ways to look at this story and, indeed, the whole series: One is that it's a humorous, short, easy-to-read book that appeals to reluctant readers, and all of that is true. It's the illustrations that make it particularly funny -- simple b&w cartoons that are so brilliantly done that they convey both the characters as well as Greg the narrator's attitude towards them, and yet somehow still remain believable as a kid's drawings. Along with that comes text that always ensures that the reader knows more than Greg and can have the uh-oh pleasure of anticipating what is going to go wrong.
The other way to look at it is that the story is basically The Three Stooges without the nasty violence, or perhaps an extended version of America's Funniest Home Videos. Every single character, major or minor, adult or child (including, especially, the narrator, Greg), is pretty clueless, often devious and mean as well, and much of the humor derives from watching them get humiliated. There's no real plot, no character growth, no lessons, just the dubious pleasure of feeling superior to these characters. So if your kids like it, fine; it probably does no harm. But as to the argument that we need books like this to entice reluctant readers to read, one can hope that J. K. Rowling has forever dispelled that notion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why we find cluelessness and bad behavior funny. Why, for instance, is the situation depicted on the cover, which anyone would find completely humiliating if it happened to them, funny when it happens to someone else?
Why are these books so popular when none of the characters are anyone you would want to know in real life? Is it realistic?
Have things like this ever happened to you? Are there times when you have thought like Greg?
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