Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Luck of the Draw: The Last Straw (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) by Jeff Kinney

"You know how you're supposed to come up with a list of 'resolutions' at the beginning of the year to try to make yourself a better person?

Well, the problem is, it's not easy for me to think of ways to improve myself, because I'm already pretty much one of the best people I know.

So this year my resolution is to try to help OTHER people improve...."

In Jeff Kinney's latest laugh-out-loud installment in the journals of the world's most clueless middle schooler, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw, Greg Heffley begins with his worst Christmas ever. He's just discovered that he's too old for toys or pretty much anything else that's any fun. His stocking yields only a deodorant stick and a travel dictionary. His Uncle Charlie's gift is a big plastic ring with a net attached.

Uncle Charlie explained that it was a "Laundry Hoop" for my bedroom. He said I was supposed to hang the Laundry Hoop on the back of my door and it would make putting away my dirty clothes "fun."

At first I thought it was a joke, but then I realized Uncle Charlie was serious. So I had to explain to him that I don't actually DO my own laundry.

I told him I just throw my dirty clothes on the floor, and Mom picks them up and takes them downstairs to the laundry room. Then a few days later, everything comes back to me in nice, folded piles.

Then Mom said that from now on I'd be doing my OWN laundry. So basically, it ends up that Uncle Charlie gave me a chore for Christmas.

Little does Greg know that Uncle Charlie's gift will change his life for the rest of the school year. Not that he USES the Laundry Hoop or does any wash, of course. Nope, Greg figures he got enough boring clothes for Christmas to last him nearly forever, so he just wears those. It all works out fine until he starts running out of new clothes around Valentine's Day.

Sure, he has to figure out ways to keep his hoped-for girlfriend on his right side so she won't see the jelly stain under his left arm at the Valentine dance, but since he can't bring himself to ask her to dance, that turns out not to be a problem.

The problem turns out to be--underwear--and Greg's creative use of underwear substitutes becomes the leitmotif of the book. Down to a choice of doing laundry or wearing a pair of Wonder Woman Underoos given to him for his birthday by--who else? Uncle Charlie--Greg finds himself the object of derision when he strips down to dress out in gym and everyone sees him wearing his Speedo for underwear.

Meanwhile, Dad's New Year's Resolution seems to be to make a man out of Greg, which means he finds himself shivering on the bench or being "Shag" for the hockey team until he finally gets in the game as sub goalie and causes the team's only loss by puffing dandelion heads while the other team scores. Dad's had it with Greg with that one and proclaims that it's off to Spag Military Union for the summer session to toughen him up. Greg's dread grows as the last days of the school year wind down and he sees himself doomed to a summer of push ups and five-mile runs.

And then, on his one day of summer vacation, with Spag Union looming on the next day, Greg manages to do something so seemingly clever, so brave and manly, and so self-sacrificing for his dad that his sentence to Spag is revoked and Greg finds himself with a long serene summer of slacking ahead. Suffice it to say that his grand gesture involves (in the great literary tradition of foreshadowing) the lack of clean laundry, i.e., an emergency pair of pilfered dress pants swiped from Rodrick's closet and a pristine pair of--you guessed it, Wonder Woman Underoos.

Jeff Kinney continues to illuminate the unfathomable mind of the middle school male in this hilarious sequel to his best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.

I can't wait for Book Four!

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  • Great review! I really like how you use quotes - it really gives you a good sense of the book. I'll be checking in here more often, to be sure.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:14 PM  

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