By Barbara Schultz,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Indignities of middle school fill funny blog novel.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Like the Wimpy Kid series that it resembles, Planet Tad is more about mocking the middle school experience and modern culture than it is about sharing any pearls of wisdom. But middle-grade readers will learn a bit about middle school social life and curriculum and possibly a little about what it's like to have a summer job.
If there's any inspiration to be taken from Planet Tad, it's that a sense of humor goes a long way to help middle schoolers carry on.
Positive Role Models
Tad's parents are generally nice and patient, and though they do bribe Tad with electronics and DVDs, it's usually to persuade him to come through for his little sister. They're also responsible in insisting that Tad find some kind of summer job.
Violence & Scariness
Some small, incidental bits of violence: Tad describes the action in a couple of the video games he plays, some of which involve fighting, capturing, etc. At school he learns about the Donner Party -- pioneers in California who turned to cannibalism when they ran out of food -- and muses about whether they cooked the people they ate and how they decided whom to eat first. There's also a pet-hamster obstacle course that goes wrong.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Tad sees another boy put his arm around a girl he likes. Boys and girls talk about which students are cute. There's also a part where Tad's family visits the zoo, and Tad jokes about why they call part of it the Children's Zoo, observing, "It's not like the rest of the zoo is the Adult Zoo, where the bears swear and the giraffes smoke and the chimps give out lap dances."
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A couple of allusions to bad language, though no profanity technically appears in the book: Tad explains that his mother won't let him choose his own clothing because Tad once bought himself a "Nucking Futs" T-shirt. He also talks about why they call part of the zoo the Children's Zoo, observing, "It's not like the rest of the zoo is the Adult Zoo, where the bears swear and the giraffes smoke and the chimps give out lap dances."
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Products & Purchases
Lots of descriptions of games and devices that Tad has -- or that his friends have and he wants -- though most of the game descriptions are made-up platforms and characters. Tad also often comments on the qualities of specific TV programs (SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TLC home improvement shows, etc.); products advertised on TV (Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Rice Crispies); chain restaurants (Applebee's); and popular films (Lord of the Rings, Armageddon, Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney princesses). Lots and lots of media and product name-dropping, though it's all in the context of poking fun in a 12-year-old comedian sort of way.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
None of the characters uses cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol, but at one point after Tad's family visits the zoo, Tad jokes about why they call part of it the Children's Zoo, observing, "It's not like the rest of the zoo is the Adult Zoo, where the bears swear and the giraffes smoke and the chimps give out lap dances."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Planet Tad is written in the form of a blog from the point of view of a middle school boy. There aren't many words or situations that aren't appropriate for middle-grade readers, but the book is heavy on consumer product and media references. The tone and format of Planet Tad is inescapably similar to Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, with lots of funny moments but not necessarily the kind of characters parents hope their kids will imitate. Author Tim Carvell is the Emmy Award-winning head writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who since 2005 has written the "Planet Tad" column for MAD Magazine.
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What's the Story?
Seventh-grader Tad starts blogging about his experiences and observations after getting a new computer for Christmas. In Diary of a Wimpy Kid style, he shares dozens of embarrassing moments, including his first summer job (dressed as a giant hot dog at a hot dog stand), being a last-minute replacement in his sister's school production of Hansel and Gretel, and wearing the wrong Halloween costume to a pretty girl's party. Along the way,Tad also makes comical observations about mainstream culture, including popular movies and TV shows, video games, and ads for brand-name foods. The blog documents a year in the life of a middle schooler in all its glory. Author Tim Carvell is the Emmy Award-winning head writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who since 2005 has also written the "Planet Tad" column for MAD Magazine.
Is It Any Good?
PLANET TAD has lots of laugh-out-loud moments, and many of Tad's stories and observations are pretty convincing representations of the seventh- or eighth-grade mind. The entries become even more believable when readers remember that Tad is writing for an audience, so he's trying extra hard to be entertaining. A lot of the humor is pretty heavy-handed -- a fitting style for middle-grade readers. Though the book doesn't do much that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books didn't already do, it's certainly very funny and enjoyable. And the book's amusing, cartoony line drawings are a perfect complement to the text.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about blogging: Would you share the kinds of stories Tad tells? If you had a blog, what would you write about? Parents, remind your kids about the basics of online safety.
Do you think it was a good idea for Tad's parents bribe him to appear in Sophie's play?
In what ways is Planet Tad similar to the Wimpy Kid series?
- Author: Tim Carvell
- Genre: Humor
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Harper
- Publication date: May 8, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 256
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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