100 Chapter Books Project: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

wimpykid

Every once in a while, I’m reminded that there were kids that submitted votes for the Top 100 Chapter Books list by the presence on the list of a book that seems out of place. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2007) by Jeff Kinney is a book (series, really) that reluctant young readers love but many parents and educators quickly get tired of.

What it’s about: Told in a combination of words and drawings, this is the story of Greg Heffley, mediocre kid extraordinaire.

Age level: Grades 3-5

Best part: The success of this book allowed chapter books to have pictures in them again. It has definitely been a boon for kids who are overwhelmed by large chunks of text. I also think that the simple drawing style has given many kids the confidence to try making their own comics.

Worst part: Greg is just not a great kid. He’s mean to classmates, his little brother, and even his best friend. He’s selfish and dishonest too. If you could tell he meant well but was just awkward, I think it would be more palatable but I think there is only one time, right at the end of the story, that he does anything kind.

Verdict: Borrow

So no, this isn’t one of my favorite books but, admittedly, it’s also not the worst. Just make sure my your kid doesn’t just bring home one of these books every single week from the school library. There are lots of better stories out there!

Ever since I saw my younger brother lying in his bed, crying, while reading Where the Red Fern Grows in elementary school, I have dreaded having to read this book. I guess it’s finally my time.

*****
Schedule – August through November
August 30 – #34 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)
September 15 – #89 The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1967)
September 30 – #13 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997)
October 15 – #99 The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warren (1942)
October 31 – #82 The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden (1960)
November 15 – #32 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1976)

100 Chapter Books Project: Ramona and Her Father

RamonaAndHerFather

Ramona and Her Father (1977) by Beverly Cleary is the second Ramona book on the Top 100 Chapter Books list. It’s kind of strange that only the second and fourth books of this series got on the list. Even stranger is how different these two books are from each other.

What it’s about: Ramona is now seven and in the second grade. Things change around her house when her father loses his job and her mother goes to work full time while he looks for a new job. Ramona and her father have to deal with the stresses of spending more time together when he is not in a good mood.

Age level: Grades 2-4

Best part: I really liked the anti-smoking message. Beezus and Ramona both put pressure on their dad to quit smoking and, though it’s not easy for him and he ignores them at first, he eventually tries. This would have been a big deal in 1977.

Worst part: Ramona and her dad are in pretty constant conflict in this book, both from the stress of losing his job and from quitting smoking. And yet, after this original cover, all of them show both of them as super happy. I love that this cover acknowledges the tension and hate that future ones have to pretend everything is just peachy.

Verdict: Borrow

This was so much better than Ramona the Pest, mostly because Ramona was a kid without being a terror. The mistakes she made were honest and not bratty at all. It was also a realistic depiction of the stresses that are put on a household when a breadwinner loses their job. This book would definitely work as a stand-alone read.

Next up is Okay For Now and I’m excited to read another Gary D. Schmidt book after loving The Wednesday Wars. It’s a loose sequel and I expect it to be quite different because of the character that it focuses on but hopefully the storytelling is of the same quality.

*****
Schedule – July through October
July 31 – #44 Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (2011)
August 15 – #76 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2007)
August 30 – #34 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)
September 15 – #89 The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1967)
September 30 – #13 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997)
October 15 – #99 The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warren (1942)

100 Chapter Books Project: Matilda

matilda

Number 30 on the Top 100 Chapter Books list, Matilda (1988) by Roald Dahl, might deserve to be higher on the list based solely on how hard it was for me to get a copy of it! I was on hold since May 1 for an audiobook and never ended up anywhere near the front of the list. The two copies in Z’s school library were both out until this week as well and no paper copies were available in our large library system either. I finally had to read an ebook copy on my phone. This is a book that is obviously still very popular even though it’s almost 30 years old.

What it’s about: Matilda is a very bright young girl who has a horrible family. The only thing that saves her are the books she reads. Soon, though, she’ll need to dig a bit deeper to find the magic that will save her and the friends she cares about.

Age level: Grades 3-5

Best part: I loved how Dahl described the way Matilda felt as she was doing magic, for the first time and how it changed as she did it more. She says that she feels like she is “flying past the stars on silver wings”. I don’t know what could sound more magical than that.

Worst part: That the magic didn’t show up until the final quarter of the book! I would have loved much more magic but, in a short book, it’s forgivable, I guess.

Verdict: Buy

I don’t know why I never read Matilda until now, especially when I’ve read just about everything else Roald Dahl ever wrote. This is definitely one of his best and I love that it even has a list of great classics inside it that will hopefully always inspire kids to try one or two!

Next, I’ll be reading Little House on the Prairie for the first time in my life. (I know, I know.)

*****
Schedule – June through September
June 30 – #27 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)
July 15 – #94 Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary (1977)
July 31 – #44 Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (2011)
August 15 – #76 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2007)
August 30 – #34 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)
September 15 – #89 The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1967)