I’m sorry, but how did Jeff Kinney find my middle school journal? Just kidding (or am I?)
At least one thing is for certain, if this isn’t my middle school journal, and it’s clearly not, something about the middle school experience must be universal (and it could just be that this book was popular while I was in middle school—the kids in my class really got into copying the “cheese touch” routine). The cover calls the book “a novel in cartoons”, and I think that’s absolutely perfect. This book is akin to being inside a middle schooler’s head as he goes about his day. We get little flashes of what’s happening through the illustrations, but mostly we get fantastic narration of daily life.
The pictures in this book serve a similar purpose to the images in Kalman’s. They expand upon the words, and even add something of their own. While not all of them are necessary to understand what the author is saying, they certainly do add their own sparkle to the text. The images in this text strike me as daydream-like—particularly the school treasurer episode (44-45). The narration pauses for a second as you look at the picture below, and you can almost see Greg’s eyes glazing over as he imagines the scenario depicted in the picture. This adds to the universal quality of the narration. The readers get to daydream along with the narrator. His experiences become our experiences—particularly if we’ve already had similar ones of our own. Given that this novel was written for a younger audience, it also serves as a learning tool so kids can watch Greg’s school year unfold and have a sort of guide to navigate middle school on their own—or at least know that no matter what ends up happening (groundings, water-soaked trick-or-treating, running for student government), they’re going to be okay.