Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney

I have been harping quite a bit about Jeff Kinney and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series lately, pretty much because I feel awfully cool that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet him a couple weeks ago. You can read about that experience HERE and HERE. And then come back and read my review of book #7 in the Wimpy Kid series, The Third Wheel.

Connor started reading the Wimpy Kid books back in first grade. He's in fourth grade now, and still into them. Bethany is in sixth grade, and she enjoys them too. Connor has read most of them multiple times. These are books that have the rare power to transcend age groups, enjoying great popularity with both elementary school and middle school kids. In case you're unfamiliar with the series, the books are basically a combination of comic book and regular book. They are funny in that particular way that certain things are hilarious to kids, and meanwhile the parents are scratching their heads and saying, "Huh? What did I miss?" That's because most of us have forgotten what it's like to be young, laughing about diarrhea jokes and utterly convinced that urban legends are the real deal. Not that I don't find the Wimpy Kid books to be funny, because I absolutely do. But not quite in the same snorting laugh sort of way that my 9-year old does.

When I met Jeff, I told him that he had an obvious rapport with 12-year old kids. I said 12 because Greg, the main character in the series, is 12 years old. (Actually, don't quote me on that; he is in middle school, so he's got to be 12-ish.) But what I really meant was more like kids ages 5-13, because that's the approximate age-range of Jeff's core audience*. They get his humor because he gets them. What an awesome gift. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books got Connor interested in reading. If you have a kid who just doesn't care much about reading, I highly recommend any of these to help spark an interest. I'm a reader, always have been, and I consider that to be quite an endorsement. I truly believe Jeff's work has encouraged many a kid to get into reading. Like Judy Blume, Jeff has the uncanny ability to authentically relate to his readers.

I read The Third Wheel in one sitting, start to finish. Connor read it in a day. It's fun, compelling, and peppered with many illustrations, which make it a quick read. This book was highly anticipated, as were the other books in the series. We ordered it ahead of time from Scholastic, and Connor received it at school the day it came out. The parents I've talked to about it say their kids read it in just a day or two also. I love that kids get so into these books. It's not a video game or an Apple product. It requires sitting quietly with no electronic distractions. And they get so excited about it!

As far as the story...well, I always hate to give away too much. Let's just say Greg Heffley is up to more of his awkward middle school shenanigans. I laughed out loud. Poor Greg. All he wants is a date for the Valentine's Day dance. When your kid is done reading this book, read it for yourself. Or read it together. Laughter is good for the soul, and you'll have something to discuss at the dinner table that won't involve cheerful pleading on your part. (Can't you remember anything you did at school today? Anything at all?)

*I have no stats to back this up, it's just me making assumptions based on what I've observed personally and what I hear from teachers.

I received a copy of The Third Wheel for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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