My 9 year-old pressed this book on me immediately after he finished reading it last night, because he really wanted to discuss it with me. I read it over dinner, and was honestly relieved to find that the narrative voice was quite different from in its parent series, The Diary Of A Wimpy Kid. Granted, I haven’t read every book of that latter series yet — to Jms’ chagrin — but after Rodrick Rules, I was pretty unenthusiastic at the prospect of jumping back in to Greg Heffley’s occasionally cynical and unnecessarily mean world so soon.
Fortunately, the protagonist of the Awesome Friendly Kid series is the awesomer, friendlier Rowley Jefferson, Greg’s much put-upon best friend. I bought Jms both books in this spin-off series as part of his latest Scholastic box shipment (books are considered an any time gift in my household — we’re so lucky we can do this, I know) and while he’s already crushed both novels, he was especially insistent I read this one. As with the Wimpy Kid series, you can absolutely read these books out of order, tho you’ll likely still miss a teeny bit of nuance doing so. That said, I feel like this is probably the most standalone of the books I’ve read so far, as it basically narrates a fantasy story Rowley is writing and illustrating.
Rowley’s story revolves around a young adventurer named Roland, whose parents keep him safe from a dangerous world by having him concentrate on his schoolwork and flute practice. But when his mother is kidnapped one day by the Winter Wizard while his father is traveling far from their village, he’ll have to embark on an epic quest to rescue her, with the help of his sidekick Garg. It’s a surprisingly twisty fairy tale with all manner of pop cultural references that had me laughing aloud almost as much as the interstitial episodes where Rowley discusses the book and its progress with Greg. From Rowley’s mild-mannered, often naive, point of view, it’s easy to see exactly how obnoxious Greg is without the latter’s self-forgiving attitude getting in the way. It’s honestly so funny, with just the right amount of ironic self-references both to the parent series and to fantasy writing in general, and just so much fun.
Another difference I noted between the two series was the delightful change in the art style. Rowley’s kinder, less cynical view of his surroundings is evident in the contrast between his art and Greg’s, which tends to be sharper and readier to exaggerate flaws. Story-wise, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Christophe (due to Twilight-fatigue) but this was Jms’ first experience with that kind of character, so he quite liked him. Not as much as he liked Lefty, tho, who was his second favorite (insert confused Mom expression here.) However, we both agreed that Rowley was awesome and sure does know how to write a cool story, no matter what Greg says.
This installment definitely refreshed my interest in reading more of Jeff Kinney’s work, plus his newest book just came out! That’ll be for November’s book box, but in the meantime, I strongly recommend that both young readers and people of any age who enjoy humorous fantasy with smart pop cultural sensibilities take a look at this volume.
Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure (Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid #2) by Jeff Kinney was published August 4th, 2020 by Amulet Books and is available from all good booksellers including
Want it now? For the Kindle version, click here.