I work in a moderate-sized public library, and we have at least 30 total copies of all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. And on any given day this summer, it’s been hard to find even one copy on the shelf — they get checked out as soon as they come back in, usually before we can even get them re-shelved. So for much of the summer, we’ve been helping kids find stuff to read while they wait their turn for a DoWK book. Here are some similar choices that I think are just as fun.
Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, by Lincoln Peirce (lexile: 500; AR book level: 3.1; 214 pp)
In format and humor, Big Nate is unabashedly jumping on the Wimpy Kid bandwagon. Nate has actually been the title character of his own comic strip since 1991, but this is his first chance to star in a novel. Unlike Greg Heffley of Wimpy Kid fame, however, Nate is a supremely confident sixth-grader whose clever antics often land him in hot water with teachers, parents, and friends. That doesn’t stop him from trying, for example, to:
- break a world record for eating the most school cafeteria green beans
- make a grouchy science teacher laugh by tickling him with a feather
As in the Wimpy Kid books, Nate describes each day in his own humorous way, and the numerous cartoon pictures help to tell the story. As some reviews put it, think Wimpy Kid meets Calvin & Hobbes, and you’ve got Big Nate.
The other Big Nate novels available so far are:
- Big Nate Strikes Again (lexile:430; AR book level: 3.0; 216 pp)
- Big Nate on a Roll (lexile: 440; AR book level: 2.9; 224 pp)
- Big Nate Goes for Broke (lexile: 450; AR book level: 3.1; 216 pp)
- Big Nate Flips Out (lexile: 420; AR book level: 2.8; 216 pp)
Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters, by Rachel Vail (lexile: 790; AR book level: 5.2; 246 pp)
Justin Krzeszewski (“Most people just call me Justin K., because Krzeszewski looks like somebody fell asleep and their head rolled around on the computer keyboard”) is a hero for elementary-aged Wimpy Kid fans. Justin is a constant worrier, and this book is the diary of his journey through the worries (and occasional triumphs) of his 3rd grade year.
Among the things Justin worries about:
- Jiggly food (like Jell-O, which his grandma Gingy makes for him all the time because she thinks he likes it)
- That his new third grade teacher might hate kids with curly hair or blue sneakers
- That he might have to sit in class behind his second-best friend, Noah, who has an extremely large head, so then he’d never be able to see the board, and he’d fall behind, and his teacher would think he’s stupid
- Giving speeches
- Climbing the rope in gym
- His big drooling dog named Qwerty
Justin Case doesn’t have all the cartoon pictures of Wimpy Kid, but there are some humorous drawings, and the diary entries are clever and very funny. Most are short (one page or less), so they’re quick reads.
And parents who are uncomfortable with some of the negative behavior portrayed in the Wimpy Kid books will appreciate that Justin Case is much more positive. You won’t find kids calling each other names or making fun of teachers and parents. And woven through the diary entries is the unfolding story of a pretty typical third-grader as he gradually builds friendships with his classmates and, by the end of the school year, realizes that he has actually become a bit braver.
And now (2012) there’s a sequel: Justin Case: Smells, Shells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom.