Double Down is Book 11 in the global franchise that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has become. Presented as part text, part cartoon, it’s the very amusing and irreverent diary of 12-year old Greg Heffley. In this instalment, Greg’s mum sets about ‘improving’ his mind. She gives him $20 to spend at the school book fair.
I thought I was allowed to pick whatever I wanted, but it turns out mom expected me to spend the money on books
However, as Greg points out, when you get the chance to buy a giant pencil with googly eyes, it’s kind of hard to pass up. In a cunning bid to deflect his parents ire, he also purchases a literary yo-yo, bearing the inspiring message ‘I heart to read’. Mind improving piano lessons are similarly doomed. His tutor, realising the extent of Greg’s ineptitude, spends the lessons reading gossip magazines, while Greg plinks and plonks away.
The humour is twofold. Which parent hasn’t been down this fruitless path? Which hapless kid hasn’t suffered it? The author’s sly digs at censorious parents and teachers are genuinely laugh out loud funny. However, the book does read like a series of humorous set pieces, rather than a coherent whole. After ten books, Jeff Kinney knows which buttons to press for his audience. This one is comparatively short and patchy and it feels like a franchise obligation.
But that’s casting a critical adult eye. There’s no doubt that kids adore the slapstick humour. You can’t underestimate the joy that a toilet joke brings a 9-year old. The cartoon aspect also attracts younger, reluctant readers, who may be daunted by wordiness, and the official website offers teaching resources galore. These aren’t challenging books but they’re a happy gateway to further reading. They make kids laugh until they ache, and silliness abounds.
Hooray for silliness.
Diary of a Whimpy Kid – Double Down is published by Puffin, 224 pages.