“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life • Middle-grade fiction

by Rachel Renee Russell
June 2009 • Aladdin Paperbacks/Simon & Schuster • Ages 9-13

It's THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID for girls in a hilarious new novel.
Story: Join Nikki Maxwell in her personal chronicle about life as a new kid, aspiring artist and librarian shelving assistant. Dork Diaries follows this eighth grader as she chronicles through text and sketches her move to a snooty new school; her epic battle with her mom for an iPhone, her enthusiasm for drawing and art; and a love/hate fascination with the new school's queen bee. Nikki writes about friendships, crushes, popularity and family with a unique and fresh voice that still conveys a universal authenticity.
Story behind the story: April 12 - 18 is National Library Week and I'm thrilled that we can offer preview copies of Dork Diaries at this time. While adjusting to life at Westchester Country Day, Nikki becomes a Library Shelving Assistant (LSA) and much of the story takes place in the school library. The librarian, Mrs. Peach, is planning a trip to NYC for National Library Week to take some of her LSAs to a "Meet-N-Greet" with authors at the renowned New York Public Library. So here's to lots of stories taking place in school (and public) libraries everywhere, to Meeting-N-Greeting authors and illustrators galore, and to all the Mrs. Peach's who inspire kids to enjoy the power of stories - and libraries.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say. Know that the publisher was having some email issues and some of you may have received error messages, but they've informed me that all emails were indeed received and they've fulfilled the requests on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks for your patience!


linda said...

I showed the blurb to my girls and they are anxiously waiting for the book to come out.

Elizabeth said...

I haven't finished the book yet because my daughter has been reading it. what I have read I have thoroughly enjoyed. While the technology is different (cellphones) I can relate to my own childhood some of the situations. (What mother wouldn't let a child read?) As an 11 year old sixth grader she is thoroughly enjoying the book.

I can't wait to finish reading...

Cori said...

Putting this book down to teach my class seemed the worst part about "Dork Diaries." I was enjoying the format and story line. I found the book to truly represent what students go through after an embarrassing moment. Tripping in the cafeteria and being showered with food is not fun for anyone, especially a 12-year-old girl who already feels out of place in a new school.

I think students will love reading this story but some of the pop culture references might be difficult for a middle school student. Luckily, the book does a great job of just mentioning pop culture and not comparing events. Therefore, the students will still be able to comprehend the story if they don't understand a reference.

Overall, I recommend this book for any middle school girl to read. Unfortunately, unlike "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" I don't think that this book will cross gender lines.

Carol said...

I read Dork Diaries in two nights, and that meant putting two other books I am reading aside. The organization of the book (diary with dates for entries) appealed to me and the sketches really made the dairy feel authentic. The main character had voice and was believable. I found myself rooting for her in the art contest and in the battle to accept herself without needing validation from others who seem to have more than her.

rating 5

PLLoggerR said...

Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell recreates all the angst possible for the new girl in school. From wanting to be part of the in crowd, to first crushes, to embarrassing moments, to being put upon, fighting back and reaching agreements,to making true friends, this book has it all.

The format, that of a diary of an eighth grade girl is very readable and, at times, quite humorous. The art work is excellent and supports the story.

This is a book that will appeal to upper elementary / middle school girls. Unfortunately I don't think boys will go for it--yes, the issues are similar for boys as for girls, but the emotional bent and method of dealing with the angst is different, and therefore not as likely to attract the guys.

I give this a 4 out of 5.

Becky Jensen
Co-Director, Peacham Library

Tara said...

Rachel Renee Russell has a strong voice that easily evokes memories of tumultuous teenage years. The trials of Nikki Maxwell’s eighth grade year are craftily explored through the musings and drawings of the protagonist. Girls who read this book will certainly identify with Nikki and her attempts to find her way through the social circles of middle school. Mackenzie will remind readers of their middle school nemesis. Readers of all ages will find themselves rooting strongly against Mackenzie and cheering for Nikki’s social victories.
As I was reading, it was easy to imagine how quickly adolescent readers would be drawn into the book. Russell’s style will easily capture even the most reluctant of readers.

Catherine said...

I just finished reading it and it was a cute story. It took a while to get into it, because I couldn't tell what the storyline was or old Nikki was supposed to be. I deal with 14 year olds on an almost daily basis and they don't always act like that. After the first 40 pages, the story seemed to settle down and the author really seemed to get into the storyline. I enjoyed the anxious momements that Nikki had when she and Brianna were stuck in Mackenzie's bathroom. Or when Nikki felt that no one really liked her at her new school. It was fun to see how Nikki perceived her world and how it would yo-yo back and forth between what was reality and what she thought reality was. That is certainly true of any middle school student I know.

I would rate this story a 4. It is a fun read and something the kids would enjoy over the summer. especially in August when school looms closer.

Catherine Yezak, Spec. Ed. Teacher, Marquette Area Public Schools, Marquette, Michigan.

Treasure Hatch said...

While the format is fun and the pictures are cute, this book would not fit well in our Media Center at school. We are a conservative Classically educated school and the writing style was very amateur. I rate this book a 3 out of 5

Lemon the Duck said...

This book had very strong voice and some humorous moments that we can all relate to, especially dealing with a bully and the desire to be in the "in" crowd.
It was disappointed that Nikki didn't grow more as a person. She seemed to be pretty shallow and "on" from beginning to end. I felt like I was in a version of the movie "Clueless" for most of the story.
I think middle school girls would get a kick out of the story and may even be heard quoting Nikki in their conversations. I would rate this book a 3 out of 5.

Laura Backman
Reading Specialist
Author of "Lemon the Duck"

Julie P. said...

I can't believe how much I enjoyed the new middle grade book DORK DIARIES: TALES FROM A NOT-SO-FABULOUS LIFE by Rachel Renee Russell. I guess you could say I was pleasantly surprised by my reaction to this book -- basically, I didn't want to put it down. It was just so much fun to read, and I absolutely couldn't wait to hear what my nine year old daughter thought.

I just adored this book. I loved the character of Nikki and felt that almost all young girls are going to be able to relate to her. She has the "normal" middle school insecurities such as the desire to be popular, wondering who she can trust as a friend, and fear of being laughed at. It's been a long time since I was in eighth grade, but I could definitely relate to being the new girl in school -- it's very hard at that age!

While there were certainly times that I felt Nikki's pain, I'd say for the most part this book was a hoot! Nikki was a terrific character who had a great perspective on her life. I found myself laughing hysterically at her attempts to get an iPhone, and I also thought the scenes with her little sister to be fantastic. (Like Nikki, I had a sister who was a good bit younger.) And her parents....well, as a parent I probably shouldn't have thought they were so funny, but the way Nikki described their actions was hilarious. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I laughed out loud while reading this story.

Since DORK DIARIES is supposed to read like Nikki's actual diary, the book had a really cool format with interesting fonts and amazing illustrations. I loved the look of this book and thought that Nikki's drawings really enhanced the story and allowed the reader to better understand Nikki. Ms. Russell is not only a fantastic writer but also a terrific artist! The various pictures of Nikki's life were just adorable while also being extremely funny. DORK DIARIES is very easy to read with the font and pictures, and I think this book will appeal to even the most reluctant reader. I am sincerly hoping that it's going to be the first in a series. I definitely want to see more of Nikki and her family and friends.

I have a feeling that this book is going to be a big hit with middle grade girls. When my daughter took this book to school, the girls were all over it -- asking her questions like "where did you get it?," "how did you get it?," "can I borrow it?," etc. I think the cover alone will attract many young girls because it is just so cute.

I definitely recommend this book for any middle grade girl in your life, although I have to admit that I enjoyed it a great deal too! The messages in this book are fantastic -- ones that young girls need to hear over and over again. I like that the book focused on what's really important in our lives such as family and friends. This book also showed that it's normal to feel insecure at this age, but I'm hoping that young girls will see how Nikki coped and learn from her. In fact, my daughter thought Nikki was great and didn't understand why she thought she was a "dork." I jumped at this opportunity and told her that maybe some people would say the exact same thing about her! (I think it's sometimes easier to see things in others.) I also liked the message that girls who seem to have it all, sometimes don't; and that it does pay to be a nice girl and a good friend.

I wasn't surprised when Booking Daughter absolutely devoured this book. I don't think we saw her face the entire time she was reading DORK DIARIES because she had her nose buried in the pages. Here are some of her thoughts:

I liked DORK DIARIES because it was really made me laugh. It was kind of sad too in parts of the story, but it was still funny. I liked Nikki because she is really funny. I liked her drawings of the characters. I sometimes feel geeky and nerdy at school, so I understood how Nikki felt.

Rating: 5/5

spmdmom said...

While this book will not have the cross over appeal to boys it will win the hearts of girls looking for a "wimpy kid" book to call their own. Filled with real life situations of any middle grade girl this book is a sure winner.

dmuldawer said...

With a vibrant voice that's wholly her own, Nikki Maxwell shares the pitfalls and triumphs of middle school through her diaries, though most of the time it's easy to forget that this is a written work as Nikki's voice comes through as spoken. In fact, several times she has to correct herself and say something like, "Okay, I didn't really say that. I just thought it."
Because of this aspect, Dork Diaries reminds me of the Disney show Lizzie Maguire. The frustration and angst are also reminiscent of the show and there is very much a touch of the drama queen in Nikki.
That said, the voice is much more sophisticated than those found in Disney, especially in Mackenzie's mean-spirited comments and Nikki's responses. One of my favorite lines is when Nikki calls her nemesis a "PIT BULL in glittery eye shadow and Jimmy Choo flip-flops!"
I think this book will have enormous appeal among middle-school girls because of the dramatic voice, the keen attention to teen issues, and the fun illustrative comics that accompany the text.
Is it great literature? No. But it does accomplish what it sets out to do. As a successful example of teenage "chick lit," it's well worth adding to libraries that serve middle school students.

Picnic Bsket Rating: 4

Mrs. Horne said...

If I had to describe this book in a few words they would be "cute" and "silly." I think it would definitely appeal to middle-school girls (especially those who like reads such as The Clique series).

I had a hard time really liking this book because it is not a deep read, and I didn't feel as invested in the characters as I have in other books. All of that being said, I can see how this is almost a mirror image of the experience that some girls face in middle school - the mean popular girl, wanting to fit in, being on the outside, and peer pressure.

I do like how Nikk's friends came through for her at the end - it is important to teach friendship and what it means to be a good friend.

Overall I would give this book a 3/5...

Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School
New Kent, VA

Anonymous said...

When I told my students about this book that I received, my girls were ready to read it. I know it will be a book that is passed around and read by many of my 6th grade girls. Many of them are now reading the other diary books,and I think they will like this one just as well if not better. There is a lot in this story that they will be able to connect to. Whenever a book stays off of the shelf and is being read, I am happy. This is not a book that I would use to teach because of its lack of literary elements. I give this book a 4 in my basket.

Jackie Purificato
Consultant teacher

Elizabeth said...

My daughter and I both loved this book. I felt it captured the peer pressure that is found in schools today. The pictures in the book were awesome. I remember the days of peer pressure and wanting to fit in...I loved the way she did come to realize who her true friends were.

I think this book would be more suited to girls than boys. I give it a 4 out of 5.

Angie said...

Well ... I wanted to love this one. I really did. I heard the blurbs and thought "Fun!"

But I didn't enjoy it. The main character annoyed me to no end. I wanted to sympathize with her embarrassment over her family's efforts to cheer her up. I wanted to share her pain when the popular girls ignored her, or the boy she liked actually spoke to her. But in the end she felt like everything that is tiresome about middle schoolers and nothing that is impressive or noteworthy. They can be really incredible kids.

I can see where some girls might like it. I sort of felt like it might fit in with the Meg Cabot crowd (albeit with some funny illustrations--I'll give the book that much). I just enjoy her characters more.

Neutral. There was enough in there that did make me laugh that I wouldn't want to say to everyone stay totally away. But I would not have finished it if it were not for my commitment to this review.

Michelle said...

I give The Dork Diaries a 3 out 5. While I liked the diary format and the drawings, I had trouble relating to Nikki.

Katharine H. said...

This book was such a positive story for that difficult pre-teen and teen girl group! I loved the realistic situations that all girls could relate to on some level. It is modern, funny, and an easy read. Even though it is mostly a "girl book" I still give it a 5/5.

Julia Pitau said...

Being a fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, I couldn't wait to read Dork Diaries. And how entertaining this book was! Fresh, fun, and funny, many females will be able to identify with the main character and how she tries to "fit in" especially with the "in crowd". Definitely for girls, I hope Rachel Russell writes more in the saga of Nikki Maxwell's life. This book is sure to entice readers from Elementary to Middle School and possibly even early High School. I passed this book on to a teacher with three younger daughters at home who argued over who was going to read it first. All three girls gave it rave reviews! I can hardly wait for the new school year to display this mini-treasure!

Picnic Rating: 5

Media & Intervention Technician (K-12)
Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Tina's Blog said...

I greatly enjoyed reading Dork Diaries. This book will be a hit in my elementary library with the fourth and fifth graders. I can see this as a good female counterpart to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I enjoyed the diary entries and how very readable this book is. While I didn't spend a lot of time looking at the illustrations that go along with the text, I know the readers I have at school will. The embarassments that befall Nikki are things all girls can relate to as is her relationship with arch enemy Mackenzie.
The one downfall of this book is its length- at least for my students. It is 272 pages long, and while it reads quickly and doesn't take long to get through, it may be too long for some of my readers.
My rating is a 5/5.

Bonnie Langan, Public Librarian said...

As a public librarian I would recommend this book without reservations. This is the female version of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”. I would use this with elementary children to demonstrate how to write. How to express yourself and that you may write your feelings down. I liked the illustrations also. I will recommend this to my tween girls. It’s a fun read. Bonnie Langan, Public Library.

SunshineFamily said...

I loved the format of this book. Before I even started reading I felt it was the kind of book that would encourage reading with 9-13 year olds. The visual aspect is appealing but I just could not get behind the content. First of all, I don't like the main character. It is more than insecurity, she is complaining about everything, insulting not only about the "mean girls" but about her family, her firends, her teachers and anyone else she wants to rag on. To make sure I wasn't being judgemental I had my own 9 year old read it. She didn't like the character, thought she was whiny and didn't even finish the book. I also felt the pop references were too many and used to replace descriptions. While I realize the pop references make connections to the younger reader, it is hard for me to imagine them making much sense in 9-12 months.
Lastly, the book disappoints because it lacks the humor that the format and visuals seemed to promise. I have yet to give a book lower than a 3/5 but I really cannot recommend this book- I give it a 2/5 as it is.

Lisa Kennedy said...

While the majority of comments for Dork Diaries have been positive I must join the minority of reviewers who found the main character to be annoying. Yes, middle school stinks! Yes, there are mean girls. Yes, there are those who feel like they don't belong. Unfortunately, the majority of us lived Nikki's life in middle school. I would much prefer a story that shared the positive aspects of being your own person and not a popular wannabe. I would not want my students to read the book without a quite a few discussions of how to properly handle the many negative situations that Nikki encountered. I felt as though this book could be used as a manual for the middle school pecking order. This is the first of any of the books I have received from The Picnic Basket that I would not recommend. A 1 out of 5 on the Picnic Basket scale.

Stacy B. said...

As a former middle school teacher, this book reconfirmed my desire to move to Kindergarten! If young girls read this book and accept the whinning, judgemental attitude of the main character as normal, we're all in trouble! I do think it will be a hit with fourth and fifth graders but personally, I would not recommend this book. Sorry!

m.otoole said...

This book was a lot of fun. I only had seconds to read it before my daughters claimed it, then it quickly made the rounds at the school I work at. The students loved it, especially the ones who are anxiously awaiting the 4th book in the Dairy of a Wimpy Kid series. I haven't seen this book in a number of weeks as it is being passed from student to student in both the 4/5 class rooms at my school. I give this a 5 out of 5 for a pleasure read for middle readers.

Tasses said...

Loved it!
Cheryl Tasses
Reading Specialist
4 on the Picnic Basket scale

I am running a contest on my site for anyone who wants to read my full review and enter the contest on Reading Rumpus

Susan Appleton said...

I loved this book once I was able to pry it loose from my niece's hands. She loved all of the Wimpy Kid books but loved this one even more because it was a girl's perspective. I thought it was well-written and an amusing tale to encourage girls to read more. I would like to also add that my niece started keeping her own diary after reading this and is adding pictures to hers too! I would give it a 5 because it is fun to read, motivates girls and is an excellent edition to the 5th grade library that I have in class! Good job!