15 November 2010

What Your Child is Reading - Addendum: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I haven't seen the movie, but I read the book (the first one in the series, anyway). I am speaking not of the latest John Grisham novel, but of the rage of your children 12 and under: Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I will admit at the start that I may not be the demographic author Jeff Kinney was hoping to reach. However, when a book takes flight like this one did among the grade-school set, a self-respecting children's librarian needs to check it out (pardon the pun). 

I realize that what I am about to say may be beyond the point, since my opinion is hardly the one that counts: I find I am not anxious to recommend the book to parents who ask. I am not suggesting it be banned in Boston. I am not planning a boycott of Abrams. I am definitely not withholding it from the eager hands of the grade-school set who come (in droves) to find it on our shelves. My objection is not so great as to offset the fact that children are reading who may not otherwise read. But my overall impression is that it lacks affection

Greg Heffley behaves badly. I recognize that good little children who wouldn't think of doing the same things get a little vicariously illicit buzz from reading about the character's escapades. Most children know that kids aren't supposed act that way. They experiencve books the same way we adults do - as a sort of way to allow our id to go outside the norm for awhile. It is less troubling that Greg is the architypal underachiever, the one who makes our own foibles seem more normal. It is that he seems so content with his mediocrity, and kicks it up a notch with deception and carelessness. His parents are adversaries. His sibling is a nuisance. He is even mean to his best friend. I question whether it is morally responsible to publish a book in which there is no redeeming quality. Which reinforces a certain ethical neutrality in children, especially with regard to willingness to try, to be productive, and most of all, to love family members enough to at least occasionally think about their needs. 

Have I, once again, read too much into this?

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