November 18, 2010

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Diary of a Whimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth,
by Jeff Kinney, 2010, Amulet Books, 217 pages.

Another book I’m only partially qualified to judge is this fifth book in the Wimpy Kid series, which, in the time since I read the first one and gave it a “B,” has gone bestseller and Hollywood. Although I was and remain a wimpy kid, I am not, as previously mentioned, a 9- to 12-year-old boy; thus my view is different from the target audience’s.

As a parent, I’d like to note that the repeated bad-role-modeling grammatical offense of “Me and Rowley [insert verb here]” (I know it’s authentic kid-speak, but still) is canceled out by the thank-you-Mr.-Kinney of Greg’s not having a cell phone even though all the other kids do.

This book finds the series in a comfortable groove. Greg Heffley is a little older now, but he’s the same Greg. This time out, he’s suffering domestic disorientation as his mom goes back to school and the family gets a maid. He goes to a new, non-pediatric dentist — he was sweet on his old one, but the new one, not so much. In health class, he and his classmates are given eggs to care for like babies. Greg also gets invited to an older kids’ party, but only to be a servant, it turns out; briefly tries out for a TV commercial; and attends his uncle’s fourth wedding, where for once he’s not a ring-bearer.

A fair chunk of the book is occupied with a co-ed slumber party at school, where the heat goes out and the chaperones are mean and the girls are far far away.

Former best friend Rowley is mainly out of the picture after an unexplained falling-out, which frees Greg to carve a solo path through life’s misunderstandings and the clashes between adults’ and kids’ views (which make for a couple insider-joke chuckles for parent readers). In the book’s finale, he gets The Talk from his Gammie about the ugly truth of life — that growing up is not a walk in the park. She gives him some wise advice: “she said I shouldn’t let anyone take my picture for the next few years, because I’d regret it if I did” — underscored by drawings of his dad’s and uncles’ adolescent photos.

This installment covers September through November of an unspecified year, so there’s still room to squeeze another one in without moving Greg up a grade. A preface page lists the previous books and then “COMING SOON More Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

I watched two preteen boys take turns immersed in The Ugly Truth while waiting out a boring Saturday-afternoon gathering. One of them directed my attention to illustrations he’d heard about, most notably one where a boy has his pants pulled all the way down while peeing (rear view) — so apparently that’s the focus of the fourth-grade gossip on the book. Wimpy Kid #5 is familiar fun, light and kinda comforting. A- —Lisa Parsons