Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal
by Jeff Kinney
Middle-grade readers looking for more Greg Heffley shenanigans are in luck! Jeff Kinney's newest book is an equally silly, just-as-entertaining spin-off of his bestselling Wimpy Kid books.
Rowley Jefferson would like readers to know that for his first book, Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, he "wrote the words and drew the pictures all by myself without any help from a grown-up" or from his best friend, Greg Heffley. This book, after all, is only about Rowley. Greg has 13 books! It's Rowley time.
"I decided to start a journal because my best friend Greg Heffley has one and we usually do the same stuff," Rowley begins. "I should mention that me and Greg are BEST FRIENDS," he continues. Even though readers may be thinking, "Well tell me more about this Greg guy," Rowley's book "isn't about HIM, it's about ME."
"The reason I called my book Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid is because that's what my dad is always saying about me." Rowley's Dad may think the world of his son, but he feels a lot less kindly toward Greg. Probably, Rowley thinks, that's because his dad doesn't get Greg's sense of humor. (Throwing eggs at his dad's car was hilarious!)
Rowley has a good life: his mom "feeds me healthy food and helps me keep my body clean"; his dad is his second-best friend; and he gets to walk to school every morning with his first best friend. "Usually," Rowley writes, we "have a total blast when we're together but sometimes I do things that annoy him." The biggest annoyance to Greg is when Rowley copies him. "So I'm probably not gonna let him know about this journal because it's just gonna make him mad."
Things take a turn on Day Two of diary-keeping, when Greg finds out what Rowley's been up to. Rowley was right--Greg is angry. Greg says Rowley "totally ripped him off" and that this is a sue-able offense. "Then," Rowley shares, "Greg said it's a JOURNAL not a diary and then he whapped me with my own book." Hurt, Rowley tells Greg he won't write about Greg any more and shows him what he's written so far. Then, Greg says the journal "gave him an IDEA." Since Greg is going to be rich and famous one day, "everyone will want to know his whole life's story." Rowley could be the one to write it!
Rowley is in! Rowley's journal, Take Two: Diary of Greg Heffley by Greg Heffley's Best Friend Rowley Jefferson!
Biographies are a little tricky, though, as Rowley quickly learns--when you didn't meet someone until fourth grade, it's hard to know what happened in their lives before then. Rowley solves this problem by glazing over Greg's early life with a few drawings of "baby Greg" and then jumps right into "the start of fourth grade." This is when the Greg/Rowley friendship gets good. The two boys met when Rowley showed up at Greg's door telling a knock-knock joke. Greg wasn't interested in the joke, but he was interested in informing Rowley that the house his parents had just purchased was on land in which Greg had planted a flag. Thus, he now owned Rowley's "house plus everything in it." Rowley's dad quickly went over to Greg's house and got Rowley's bike back.
More hilarious instances of die-hard friendship follow: Greg makes Rowley squirt milk out of his nose; Greg drops an ice cream cone on Rowley's head; Greg tells a story so scary Rowley wets the bed; Rowley falls into a ditch and gets stung by hornets, thereby saving Greg from continuing to attend a boring birthday party... what fun the two totally equal, empathic friends have!
Very occasionally in this journal-shrine to the unrivaled kindness and love that is Greg Heffley, readers are given a story wholly about Rowley. One such story revolves around a family cabin, male bonding, the loss of a grandpa and the fear that said grandpa has come back as a ghost. It's touching--Rowley has experienced loss and understands the depth of that pain--and very funny, depicting a bathing Rowley convinced his grandpa has come back from the dead. It's a nice glimpse into the Awesome Friendly kid Rowley truly is, without the shadow of his Wimpy Kid best friend.
Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid is well on track to being as loved by children as Kinney's original series is. The silly situations, comic timing, frustrating selfishness of Greg and open friendliness of Rowley continue to work their magic, creating a book that young readers will likely want to revisit time and time again. The illustrations, too, add an extra bit of fun, as readers can compare and contrast all the people in Rowley's world with the drawings of the same people in Greg's. One main difference? Rowley isn't great at drawing noses. Slapstick, energetic and occasionally quite kind, Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid is a fantastic addition to the Wimpy Kid world. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness