|Jeff Kinney with Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley|
Things get even worse when Greg yells at a couple of kids making a ruckus in the motel's hot tub and incurs the wrath of their hulking father. Fortunately, Greg is able to race back into his room without the father noticing which room it is. But, as is the way in real life sometimes, the Heffleys and the hulking father's family keep bumping into each other along the road, something that strikes terror into Greg's heart. His parents, of course, don't have a clue, since Greg didn't tell them anything about the situation.
|The Heffley family packs for vacation.|
Personally, I plead guilty to being all too much like Greg's Mom, who is depicted as a dedicated reader of Family Frolic magazine (clearly a take-off on my favorite parenting periodical, Family Fun). It's Mrs. Heffley who initiates the road trip in The Long Haul, inspired by the cover of the latest Family Frolic magazine, with its bold statement that "Adventure Awaits! Take the Ultimate Road Trip!" As Greg says: "If I had to guess, I'd say that 90 percent of everything we do as a family comes from ideas Mom gets from that magazine. And then I saw the latest issue, I knew it was gonna get Mom's wheels turning."
Other "fun" ideas that Mrs. Heffley gets from Family Frolic magazine include eschewing fast-food meals on the road and preparing, ahead of time, special "Mommy Meals" for Greg and his siblings. Instead of the typical "cheap plastic toys," as Mrs. Heffley calls them, the prizes in her "Mommy Meals" are math flash cards. Mrs. Heffley also insists on having everyone listen to Spanish language CDs during the drive, and she's also brought along a bag of family games to play in the car. Of course, things don't exactly work out the way Family Frolic suggests, and as the Heffley family's vacation veers towards disaster, even Mrs. Heffley agrees that it's time to "switch things up a little." I won't give away the ending, but suffice to say that it involves such disparate elements as Greg forgetting about a crucial key, some important Spanish language help from baby brother Manny, and a pet pig.
|A less-than-perfect motel room.|
While Greg and his friends devour the Underpants Bandits books, parents protest that the books don't belong in the school library, and the entire series is removed from the shelves. Greg and his friends are not pleased: "I hope these adults are happy when a whole generation of boys grow up not knowing how to read." And he adds: "When the school banned the Underpants Bandits books, it just made them more popular than EVER. Some boys snuck in copies from home and passed them to OTHER kids." The illustration just under that statement further highlights the humor, showing boys surreptitiously passing books to each other in bathroom stalls.
Like the Captain Underpants series, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books aren't beloved by adults, mainly because many grown-ups don't believe that a book with an illustration on every page is proper reading for kids. All too many adults subscribe to the idea that, "Once kids learn to read, they don't need pictures anymore." Kids clearly don't agree with that sentiment and that's why there are currently 150 million copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in print worldwide, and why The Long Haul has a 5.5 million-copy first printing -- the biggest of any book for either kids or adults -- this year. We've got 15 copies of the book at our library, and I expect they'll be all checked out 15 minutes after we put them out on display.
End Notes: Big thanks to Jason Wells and Emily Dowdell of Abrams Books for providing the art for this blog post.