The Wimpy Kid’s long-suffering best friend takes the narrative helm in the latest from the wildly successful book franchise.
Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal by Jeff Kinney. Amulet, 2019, 217 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10
Recommended for: ages 8-12
For 13 volumes, Greg Hefley (a.k.a. the Wimpy Kid) has had his say about middle school, girl crushes, teachers, stinky cheese, and dumb kids. Now it’s time for Rowley Jefferson to take the stage. If Greg will let him. Rowley, self-dubbed “the Awesome Friendly Kid,” knows he’s awesome and friendly because his dad routinely says so. And Dad is 100% correct: if there was a Friendship Olympics, Rowley would be a real competitor for the gold after remaining friends with the world’s toughest friend candidate.
As every Wimpy-Kid fan knows, Greg Heffley is rude, manipulative, sneaky, selfish, and hilarious. Rowley by contrast is generous, kind, open, and thoroughly gullible. That makes him a perfect foil. After years of basking in the light of his famous friend, Rowley decides he has a story to tell. Greg is immediately insulted and insists the story should be about him (like everything else in Greg’s world), with Rowley as biographer (lucky him). The Awesome Kid does manage to take his story back (occasionally), but the back-and-forth makes the narrative more episodic and rambling than the other books, which (though episodic and rambling) always followed a story thread.
Still—it’s fun hanging out with Rowley, who loves his mom, whose dad is his second-best friend, who is genuinely nice, and also secure enough to recognize when Greg has gone too far. His gone-too-far threshold is way higher than anyone else’s, and Greg is lucky to have him for a friend. Sometimes Greg even seems to recognize that, even though he’s correct that Rowley can’t draw. The usual hijinks and practical jokes fill out a thin narrative—I’ll admit, I laughed out loud a few times.
Cautions: None, except for Greg’s terrible behavior, which we should be used to by now.
Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.75 (mostly as an example of how not to be)
- Artistic value: 4.25 (it’s all about the laughs)