“Mom,” my eldest child asked me the other night. “Were things better in the good old days?”
I looked up from my typing. Given my severe allergy to nostalgia-induced rose-colored glasses, I wanted to be sure to answer this carefully. “What do you mean “good old days”?” I asked.
“Well,” said Jms. “When you were my age.”
I thought about it. About being 9 and living in Malaysia and not having air-conditioning or the Internet and living on a limited number of books with a mom who thought I read too much. Contextually, I know he only cared about the air-conditioning (which is nice, but hardly necessary for survival) and the Internet (which is both very nice and necessary in this age of COVID-19.) So I answered honestly, “No, it was not better.”
Which led to me asking why he wanted to know, and he brought up the book he was reading, from a set I’d bought him earlier this summer when I was desperate for him to read something besides his otherwise terrific Dog Man books. Since his 4th grade teacher is encouraging parents to book club with their kids, we agreed that I ought to read Old School as well, despite it being the tenth in the series and my having never read any previous installments, so we could discuss it together.
In the tenth installment of the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid books, Greg Heffley’s mom is on a tear against modern technology. She’s even petitioning City Hall to declare a technology-free weekend, to the chagrin of the rest of her family. However, after an accident involving Grandpa and Dad’s car, Greg decides to escape his father’s wrath by joining his classmates on a trip to Hardscrabble Farm, a week-long camp devoted to “old school” living, which mostly consists of outdoor showers, lots of farm chores and some truly disgusting camp food. While suffering through the lack of modern conveniences, Greg accidentally stumbles across the secret of Silas Scratch, the long deceased farmer whose restless soul supposedly haunts the farm. Will living old school ever look the same for Greg again?
Honestly, this was a refreshingly light-hearted look at the life of a modern middle school kid, whose slightly eccentric family is probably not too different from yours (tho not every family has such a talented pet pig!) I loved how easy this volume was to pick up and enjoy even without any prior experience with the series — as my 9 year-old had assured me it would be — and how the humor, like the family, was relatable in a delightfully off-kilter way. I particularly admired the way Jeff Kinney wove the seemingly unconnected diary vignettes together to form a clever whole, as well as the light satire of Greg’s choice to perpetuate the nostalgia he disdained, for the same complicated reasons parents sometimes do.
I really need to find time to read the rest of these books with Jms, as he and I both enjoy them greatly and enjoy discussing them too. We did watch the first movie the other day — well, he watched it while I worked on my PC in the same room — so perhaps I’ll do a Page To Screen column on the series once I manage to consume it all, as well. Hopefully, he won’t have to nag me too hard to complete all this!