April 19, 2007

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons, by Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books, 2007, 217 pages)
Reviewed by Lisa Parsons lparsons@hippopress.com

This guy should do standup.

I can’t say how this book would come across to its intended audience of 9- to 12-year-olds, but I can tell you that as I read it I kept thinking it should be a standup comedy routine for grownups or all ages. Sort of like Dane Cook, but way better (and not R-rated).

It’s formatted like a diary, which works, because it’s light on plot — this is not one of those angsty early-adolescence books. And this plot-lightness had me a little bored until I started thinking of it as a series of standup bits, a stream of some adult’s reminiscences and stories. Bill Harley crossed with Dave Barry. Suddenly the bit about dressing up as a tree in the school play, and the bit about the Christmas gift mix-up, and the sharp-as-a-rubber-ball best friend, slide into focus and make me chuckle. Same goes for the story about building the world’s largest snowman.

Read it, and imagine some pauses for effect, some cymbal crashes, and some body language and embellishments. Lines like “To make a long story short, Independent Study is canceled for the rest of the year” need a couple beats of silence (a “…” on the end…) and a cymbal crash more than they need the contemplative aura of diary pages. Give them that, and you’ve got some laughs.

For the wimpy kid in all of us. B