Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (number 8), by Jeff Kinney (Abrams Publishing, 217 pp, 2013, about $8.00, ages 8-12, grades 3-7)
Dear Author, . . . .
There are so many Dear Author letters that need to be written by dog trainers about potentially dangerous or just unwise dog situations in books for children: this is one.
I am a dog trainer but not just a dog trainer. I’m a positive-reinforcement dog trainer. That means I don’t use force, or any methods or equipment that are not gentle and dog-friendly (I have no need to use choke collars or electric fences, etc.).
So, imagine how my interest was tweaked when I read a FaceBook post about dogs who help kids read better by being good listeners: a trainer friend posted that she takes her dogs to libraries and schools for this wonderful service, and one day a book was being read aloud to her dog that mentioned electric fences and shock collars. Fortunately, the trainer-volunteer was listening and managed to have a conversation with the child about equipment that can hurt dogs.
So, I simply had to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Third Wheel (number 7 in the series).
So, back to the library I went to check out and wade through another Wimpy book.
Yup, Hard Luck was the book in question - the title refers to not only a certain period in character Greg Heffley’s middle school life but also refers in the early pages (page 11) to the bad luck of one poor dog.
This dog, Rebel the Rottweiler, is misunderstood. In earlier books, I guess, he would get out of his yard and chase our “hero” to school, so “Rebel’s owner had to install an electric fence to make sure he couldn’t get loose. Now Rebel can’t chase us, because if he takes one step out of his yard, he’ll get a shock from his collar. (illustration of dog showing teeth, caption: “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP”)
“Ever since me and Rowley [friend] found out about Rebel’s electric collar, we’ve been having some fun with him. (illustration of two boys: one saying “OOPS! LOOKS LIKE I DROPPED MY SANDWICH” while the other boy is on all fours saying “MEOW! MEOW!”)
“But Rebel figured out that as long as his COLLAR doesn’t cross over the property line, he won’t get shocked.”
A Teachable Moment
Is it too much to ask parents, teachers and librarians to engage their young readers in a discussion about electric shock, about teasing animals who can’t respond, about ways to ‘have fun’ that aren’t at the expense of others? It’s too late to ask the author to include a better lesson about how to treat animals, unfortunately.
However, DogEvals did write the author about this. We hope to print his reply in the near future. If we don’t receive a reply, we will post that information, too.
Who Doesn’t Remember Middle School? (or junior high school)
I believe that inside each of us is a wimpy kid that explains the success of the series.
The Wimpy Books
Jeff Kinney, author, has struck a gold mine in his series starting in 2007 about a ‘wimpy’ kid in middle school: each page looks like a kid really printed it by hand and drew a couple of stick figures on every page to illustrate the story.
An Unlikely Story
Kinney, a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Book was also named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He currently owns a bookstore in Plainville, MA, named An Unlikely Story.
Other Wimpy Kid books:
The first one
Number Four, Dog Days, which I tried to read a couple of years ago but I guess I was just too old at the time. I’ll try again.
Number Six, Cabin Fever – snow days. Can’t wait to check this one out.
Number Seven, The Third Wheel, the book that got me hooked on the Wimpy Kid! (see cover above, in article)
Number Nine, The Long Haul – family vacation by car. This should bring back memories!