Some Parents Wary Of 'Wimpy Kid' Series
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Now, Tanya Turek. She's a children's book blogger and mother of three, and she has a more exacting view of Jeff Kinney's character, Greg Heffley.
Ms. TANYA TUREK (Blogger, books4yourkids.com): Oh, if he was my son, I don't know what I'd do. He's just lazy and self-interested and doesn't think about anybody else. He's not empathetic in the least. And, you know, I think, really, he's a - like a condensed hyper-version of what kids are like at this age because I think the reason adults laugh at it is because we all remember doing something horrible to one of our friends as a kid or lying to an adult or something like that. But, you know, we maybe did it once or twice, whereas in these books, Greg is doing it almost every day.
NORRIS: Well, you note that the book is not just fantastical. I mean, like a lot of the scenes really do spring from real life…
Ms. TUREK: Yes.
NORRIS: …like the cheese touch, which a lot of the kids…
Ms. TUREK: Yeah.
NORRIS: …wrote in about, which really is about, you know, kids being ostracized for…
Ms. TUREK: Yeah.
NORRIS: …really strange reasons.
Ms. TUREK: True. And, you know, I really admire how Kinney captures that so astutely. You know, I think what I would like to see - you know, Kinney makes the point of saying that his books are less than free and that they're all about the humor, and I think that's great. I don't think his literature has to have morally outstanding characters in it. They can be ambiguous. But I think for younger readers, maybe the parents can be the moral voice outside of the text. You know, they can do a reality check with their kids after they read the book and say, hey, you know, what do you think about the cheese touch and what - how Greg treated Rowley, you know, or something like that.
NORRIS: So why are parents so suspicious of these books? Why are they worried?
Ms. TUREK: Wow. I didn't realize they were. I kind of thought it was just me. But…
(Soundbite of laughter)
NORRIS: You know what, maybe you can help us understand the tension because on one hand, librarians have really come to appreciate these books, some reluctantly because they work so well with reluctant readers.
Ms. TUREK: Yes.
NORRIS: And parents, if you look at the blogosphere, a lot of parents are really ambivalent about this. They think the books are snarky. They think they're subversive. They think that they introduce kids to life lessons that they probably don't need in the pages of a book. I know when I read these books with my kids, I find myself laughing, laughing really hard and then pulling back and saying, ooh, do I want my kids to be laughing at that? Is that a good thing?
Ms. TUREK: Yeah. Yeah, you know, I go back and forth about this because I feel like on a certain level, the humor in the book is really adult and it is akin to, you know, maybe the humor in "The Office" or "Curb Your Enthusiasm," where someone's being a horrible person and everybody else is in on the joke, and you wonder if the kids reading the book are in on the joke. But I, you know, I just - above all else, I think this is a really great opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about what they're reading and figure it out that way. I don't think there's any reason to take a book out of a kid's hand if you, as the parent, are going to be involved and be the moral voice outside of the text.
NORRIS: Tanya Turek, it's been good to talk to you. Thanks so much.
Ms. TUREK: Oh, it's been an honor. Thanks, Michele.
NORRIS: Tanya Turek blogs about children's books at books4yourkids.com, and for there is numeral four. She also works in the Children's Department at a Barnes and Noble bookstore on San Diego, California.