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As an avid reader, I know all-to-well that sinking feeling when you get the end of a book you loved.
How will anything ever be as good again? What book could possibly follow-up?
For millions of kids, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are that way - books that, sometimes for the first time, give them that “I love to read!” feeling.
These books follow Greg, who is starting middle school and trying to make sense of the new rules of popularity and fitting in, with both hilarious and honest results. They’re written in diary form, with Greg’s thoughts about his life combined with funny sketches illustrating what life in middle school (and at home) is really like. Fortunately there’s a whole series for your child to fall in love with, unfortunately he or she will eventually run out.
If your child loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, the nine books on this list have lots of similar qualities, whether they take place in public school, are laugh-out-loud funny, feature ordinary kids, or cleverly integrate illustrations and text to make a novel that’s inviting for both strong and struggling readers between about second or third grade and seventh or eighth grade:
- NERDS : National Espionage Rescue and Defense Society by Michael Buckley – This underdog story is the perfect combination of classic school story and the adventures of undercover spies. It’s packed with action and made up to look like a spy case file, which makes it extra fun.
- Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf : a Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm – Possessions are super important to most children and pre-teens, so this book, which focuses on the stuff that makes up an average life makes for a compelling and funny story of a regular girl.
- School! : Adventures at the Harvey N. Trouble Elementary School by Kate McMullan and George Booth – Jam-packed with illustrations, this is the story of a week in Ron Faster’s life as an elementary school student at an outlandish school. You only WISH your school was so fun!
- The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow – Two fifth-grade girls try to crack the code for becoming popular. They might not become popular, but they will keep readers laughing from beginning to end.
- Amelia’s Notebook by Marissa Moss – I’ve always loved this series, written as a doodled-in diary by nine-year old girl wondering about how to find a new friend since her best friend has moved away. Bundle it with a blank composition book, a pack of colored pens, and you have a perfect gift.
- Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar – This is an oldie but a goodie. It has that kid-pleasing brand of weirdness that my students couldn’t get enough of. Each chapter follows a different student in a very unusual classroom at a very unusual school.
- Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon – Like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, this is a nice cross between novel and graphic novel. Plus it’s laugh-out-loud funny. (And there are currently 9 books in the series, so if your child loves the first one, there’s plenty more where this came from).
- Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost – Part story, part drawing book, this is perfect for the kid who wants to make their own cartoon books (or anyone who loves a good story). When I was a librarian, I couldn’t even keep this on the shelf.
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh – Fifty years after it was first published, this is still wildly popular with young readers. Harriet, encouraged by her nanny, spies on her family, friends, and neighbors, taking copious notes in her precious notebooks. But things take a quick turn for the worse when her schoolmates discover her notebook and what she’s recorded about them in it. I loved this book as a child and can’t wait to read it aloud to my girls when they are a bit older.
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