2008's Buckeye Children's Book Award winner for grades 3-5 was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Can you believe there are now 11 books in this series? I'm not sure an end is in sight, either!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is about a boy named Greg who is entering middle school with his friend, Rowley. All Greg wants is to be well liked by his classmates (particularly the girls) and to play video games. He has an older brother, Roderick, and a younger brother, Manny -- both of whom Greg doesn't particularly get along with. The story goes through Greg's daily struggles, until Greg ends up doing something wrong and Rowley gets blamed for it. Greg doesn't fess up until later, and Rowley ends his friendship with Greg. Trying to figure out his place at school without his best friend, Greg ends up joining the school play, only for it to end in disaster. Greg doesn't think things could get much worse, until some older kids force Rowley to eat the legendary moldy cheese on the playground. When the other students notice the cheese missing, Greg claims he picked it up and threw it away, making Greg a social pariah for having the "cheese touch" -- but he wins his friendship with Rowley back, making Greg happy despite his new "affliction."
Originally a popular web comic, the book is one of the first (or quite possibly the first) of a new style of book that blends traditional chapters and paragraphs with graphic novel elements. The simple drawings (comic book style!) and words written like an actual journal are extremely appealing to kids of a wide range of ages. I have found 2nd graders all the way up to 8th graders reading these books. The humor of the book also draws kids in easily.
I can honestly say there is no other series as popular as this one in my library. Each year, when a new one is released, every child seems to be reading it or wanting it. Not only that, but they re-read this series constantly. Thankfully, with the popularity of this style of book, there have been many similar books made with this traditional style paired with graphic novel elements, so it's easy to find other books to introduce the kids to that enjoy Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Interestingly, with how popular this book is, with comic book elements and a more simple plot, next year's winner is quite complex and very text heavy -- two very different books but both winners!
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