When I was in elementary school, I had it all: round glasses, braces, ridiculously poofy hair and a tendency to wear Smart Set dress pants instead of jeans. This is all just appearance, but I also loved school and put more effort into my homework than was ever required. By today’s standards, I was your typical nerd, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Now, as an adult, settling down to read Jim Benton’s Dear Dumb Diary books, I can’t help but spend the hour reading with a smile on my face and laughter-induced tears on my cheeks. I WAS this awkward kid, bent on making my voice heard because I knew I had one and the lives of those around me would be greatly enriched by my way of thinking (or, so I thought). I was a Jamie Kelly, and I so wish she would have been around when I was that age!
Today’s books for middle-school readers are progressively embracing all types of kids, whereas books from my childhood all featured gorgeous blondes from Sweet Valley High. There was one saving grace for me, and her name was Abby Hayes. The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes by Anne Mazer was very similar in style to the Dear Dumb Diary books: Abby’s diaries were hilarious and covered in her own personal doodles, illustrating life through her eyes. Abby had wild curly red hair and way too many concerns for a kid her age: just like me. But, like all kids, Abby had to grow up and the books followed her into her teen years, and I was plunged into the realm of adult reads.
Thankfully now, Jamie Kelly has taken over; delivering a voice that stands out in today’s middle-grade fiction. Middle-grade is that vulnerable time when kids begin to read on their own and the books they choose can ultimately determine if they will continue on as avid readers in their adult life. Diving into Jamie’s world is so much fun, I didn’t even realize I was reading a novel. Instead, I felt quite devious, daring to peer into the diary of this hilarious kid who hates Math, winces at the dumbness of her fellow classmates, and knows that she is quite perfect (with the exception, she says, of her hair, but really, you can’t have everything). Paired with her illustrations to help you better picture the dumbness that she must deal with on an everyday basis, Jamie’s stories are one of a kind.
Dear Dumb Diary Year Two: The Super-Nice are Super-Annoying hit stores this month and I can guarantee, you will want to take the risk (despite the warnings) to read Jamie’s diary, so you can meet her, the quirky Isabella and the way-too-perfect Angeline. This series is so much fun − hilarious and creative − giving a voice to an average-seeming kid, who knows deep down that she is something special. Someday, I hope to teach my own (not yet existing) child, that like Jamie, he/she is something special.
If you or your kids are already fans of the Dear Dumb Diary books, you can join in on the diary writing with Jamie in Our Dumb Diary: A Journal to Share, and spend the summer writing! Then, back to school calls for the Dear Dumb Diary, Totally Not Boring School Planner, where you can keep Jamie around all year long! Enjoy!