Monday, November 23, 2015

Retrograde Greg: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney

Grown-ups are always talking about the "good old days" and how things were so much better when THEY were kids.

But I think they're just jealous because MY generation has all this fancy technology and stuff they didn't have.

Lately, Mom's been going around town with a petition to get people to stop using their phones and electronic gadgets for forty-eight hours.

Things have only gotten tougher for middle-school sad sack Greg Heffley. The pig the family acquired in Book Nine, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, is still with them. His table manners are worse than little brother Manny's, but he has learned to walk on his hind legs, dress in Manny's clothes, and go and come so freely that Mom has to fit him with a GPS. Then, when the rates at Leisure Towers go up, Grandpa is forced to move in with the Heffleys for an, er, indefinite stay and picks Greg's room for his own, leaving Greg with a Murphy's choice for a roommate.

There's no WAY I'm sharing the pullout couch with a barn animal.

I ruled out Rodrick's room right away, because he might actually be a step down from the PIG.

So Greg puts his bedroll down on Manny's floor. Manny, seemingly undergoing an interminable toilet-training, is now in the no-pants-after-dinner stage, but his is the best of a bad bunch when it comes to bedrooms.

But those are just the background problems for Greg when Mom gets her quota of signatures and her petition passes at city hall. Now Greg has a device-less Saturday and Sunday to get through as the whole town goes unplugged, retro, back to the 1950s.

But the device-deprived folks in town get in the spirit and decide to put their idle hands to work cleaning up the park over the weekend. Greg and his sidekick Rowley decide to take advantage of the business opportunity and set up a lemonade stand for the sweaty volunteers, but when the customers object to sharing the same glass, they decide to switch to store-bought Fitness Water. When Mom shuts them down, claiming it's "tacky" to sell water to her volunteers, Greg and Rowley are put to work with the "Community Service" orange-jumpsuited juvvies, and the next thing they know they're fugitives from the Girl Scout deputies. Greg rats out the Community Service slackers, and they are hauled off to the hoosegow, but not without some baleful backward looks at Greg the Squealer.

Then Greg drops a toothpaste lid down the drain, and his first tries at plumbing result in a water leak that drips through the living room ceiling. Grandpa offers to drive him in Dad's car for paint to hide the evidence, but only remembers that he lost his license for too many accidents when he has another one. Now Greg is on everyone's hit list. This might be a good time to get out of town, and Greg decides to go on his official class nature week at Hardscrabble Farms after all until the case cools down.

But that's where Greg's problems really begin, in Jeff Kinney's already best-selling laugh-athon, Diary of a Wimpy Kid #10: Old School (Abrams/Amulet Books, 2015). Snickers, giggles, chortles, and flat-out, out-loud guffaws abound in this newest in the killer-diller Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Kinney skillfully juggles his quirky cast of characters--Mom, the perennial family improvement maven, Manny the incontinent, Rodrick, the world's worst defrocked fast-food mascot, Grandpa, the party animal, and even Dad, who turns out to know the secret of Hardscrabble Farms' own legendary bogeyman, Silas Scratch.

Jeff Kinney is surely the modern Mark Twain of middle school adventures. "One of the most successful children's series ever published," says The Washington Post." No joke!

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