A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Occasionally, an advanced vocabulary word (such as "photogenic") or idea (such as a brief mention of the laws of physics) is introduced.
The series is funny and portrays school-related adults in a universally positive light. But it repeatedly tags a sensitive kid as a "crybaby" and calls a girl who's accepted into the school's gifted program a "dweeb" and a "know-it-all." A.J.'s hatred of school and learning is seen as cool, and his inner monologue is punky and dismissive and can be bullying. He rarely says anything out loud to the girl who cries easily, but readers of this series will see exactly what he thinks of her, and it isn't positive.
Positive Role Models
The teachers, principal, and staff are supportive, kind, and funny, joking with the students and trying to get the kids to understand the importance of trying their best. The parents are almost nonexistent since the series is set at school, but mentions of parents are generally positive. The students, however, are always picking on each other, and their behavior is the opposite of what teachers everywhere try to have in their classrooms.
Violence & Scariness
Mild but consistent teasing among students at school, with some tense moments when the students get in trouble. Confrontational teasing between kids is portrayed as normal.
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The name-calling is almost nonstop. "Nerd," "crybaby," and "dumbhead" are only a few of the insults flung around the second grade; A.J. and his friends insult the girls for being smart, and Andrea (his nemesis) insults the boys for being dumb.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dan Gutman's popular My Weird School series is full of light, funny jokes about classmates, teachers, and the principal. Readers can see how the adults in the series behave in sneaky ways to trick the kids into doing more schoolwork, which is fun to watch unfold. That said, there's a consistent message that boys and "boy stuff" like sports are cool and that girls and "nerdy stuff" like being good at school are not. In several of the books, A.J. learns that school is important and can be fun, but the series reinforces some unfortunate gender stereotypes. When the teacher asks if the students are ready to learn, all the girls yell "yes" and the boys yell "no." The boys are all about physical and competitive games, and the girls run screaming after a teen pop star. The writing is funny, but the messages can be troubling.
Is It Any Good?
This beginning chapter book series is for any kid who doesn't like school, enjoys watching kids get away with pranks, or wants to see school as a sillier place than it is. Kids love reading the My Weird School series. The language is age-appropriate, the adult characters are as loopy as they come, and the friendships between the kids are real. But any reader who's felt the sting of schoolyard teasing, or who's sensitive to seeing kids pick on each other, or who doesn't like the "boys vs. girls" theme might have a hard time with the content.
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.