Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Diary of A Wimpy Kid

If the kids in the lunchline at Dixie Elementary School yesterday had voted for World's Coolest Adult, I might have won handily.

Miguel had loaned me books two and three in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and I had book three with me yesterday as I prepared to check names off and direct them to bags marked either 'soup', 'hotdog' or 'quesadilla'. Because the other two volunteers and I finished stuffing the bags with the entrees, napkins, plastic spoons, or dinner rolls, hauling out cartons of milk, and placing grapes or carrots into twisty bags about ten minutes before the first wave of hungry fourth and fifth graders, I had some time to read.

So I sat reading and laughing as I immersed myself in the middle school adventures of Greg Heffly, who is tormented by his 3-year-old brother and also his teenaged brother, Roderick, who belongs to a heavy metal band, Loded Diper; hates school and exercise; adores Holly Hills, whom he can't muster the courage to talk to; loves cartooning; and constantly manages to tangle himself into highly embarrassing situations while maintaining an over-inflated sense of self.

I didn't really enjoy book one, but read it because I wanted Miguel to know I took his literary world seriously. But book 2 was very funny, and I laughed out loud several times as I pedaled on the Life Cycle early Tuesday morning.

As the students lined up, I put the book down next to me and my water bottle. I grabbed the clipboard, ready to check off names M-Z and remind them what they were signed up to eat. At least four or five students, after noticing the unmistakable cover of the book on the floor near my chair, exclaimed with enthusiasm, "Are you reading that?" They were stoked and then engaged me as if I were now a full fledged member of a secret society. A society, of course, of nine, ten, and eleven year olds, with me, someone who will be fifty in 35 days, as quite possibly the lone adult.

"Did you read the part where..." they kept asking me. One kid engaged me once and then again when he came back for more milk. Figures. Any kid who drinks two cartons of milk has got to be weird enough to voluntarily converse with an adult.

The great thing about reading the last two Diary of A Wimpy Kid books was how it deepened my relationship with Miguel. Several times he asked me, "What part are you on now?" Or, "Have you gotten to page 123 yet? Tell me when you read that." We talked about the book as if we belonged to the same book club.

He really wanted me to read page 123 as I was reading in his room last night while he tried to fall asleep. "Miguel," I said, "I probably won't get there while you are awake."

"C'mon, you can do it."

It was only 20 pages. So I said, "Should I just skip there now and then go back?"

"OK," he said.

I started reading and burst out laughing. Greg, whose room is littered with just dirty laundry, was having trouble finding anything clean to wear. He ended up searching for pants in a pile of soiled clothing. As Greg was walking near his locker, a pair of dirty underwear accidentally slid down his leg onto the floor. He kept walking nonchalantly, hoping to avoid embarrassment by having someone link the briefs to him.

Later, though, one of the school administrators announced to the entire school, "Will the owner of the underwear found in the hallway with the initials Greg H. sewn on the waistband please come to retrieve them in the office?"

I had tears in my eyes as I read. I can see why the books are popular, NY Times bestseller list popular, with kids. First, they get kids reading, much like the Harry Potter craze. Second, they offer us a protagonist who is funny, self-deprecating, self-absorbed, and, in a very exaggerated way, much like the average pre-adolescent.

I thanked Miguel this morning for loaning me the last two books. "I am looking forward to the next one." I said.

He smiled, brightly. Sometimes, kids just need to know adults take them and their world seriously. And sometimes we do, and it's to our benefit.

No comments:

Post a Comment