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Review: Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl

When I purchased Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life for my library collection in September 2009, I never imagined it would become so popular. The book had an interesting premise. It had a catchy pink cover and it seemed like it would fill a niche.  But by June my copy had fallen apart, and I had to order fresh new copies for this year.

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl
Russell, Rachel Renee’
Ages 9-13 Aladdin,
June 2010, 978-1-4169-8008-7
$12.99, 288 p.

While I never read the first volume, I had no trouble jumping into the story when I decided to pick up volume 2.  Nikki’s locker is still right next to mean-girl Mackenzie, but even so that can’t put a damper on the school year, because her secret crush, Brandon, has asked her to be his lab partner and Nikki does have the most amazing friends.  But Nikki is crushed when she overhears that Brandon is planning to take Mackenzie to the Halloween dance.  Then her 2 best friends propose a not so grand idea: to go to the Halloween dance as “cleaners,” which is a pretty dorky job.  In the meanwhile, Nikki lands a job as a face-paint artist at a party for little kids.  Then disaster strikes when mean-girl-Mackenzie backs out of planning the Halloween dance in order to make Nikki look bad, and Nikki is left not only planning the dance, but also needing a double since both parties are going on at the same time.

So I get why this is so popular. First of all, it mimics the popular hybrid style of cartoons and prose that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid made popular.  In addition, there are many parts of the story that tweens will be able to relate to.  Middle School is a really tough time for kids and this book captures some of what makes it so hard, even if it isn’t all quite realistic.  But what middle schooler can’t say that they’ve felt awkward and unpopular – which Nikki often feels?  Or that there’s a much more popular kid who is out to get them – like Mackenzie is out to get Nikki?  What middle schooler hasn’t crushed on a guy and doesn’t know how to approach it?

As Nikki tries to juggle her predicament readers will keep turning the pages following the often humorous and exciting twists and turns of this novel.  The artwork is a bit more sophisticated than Kinney’s stick figures, but does mimic the black and white line drawings.  The artwork is lively and vibrant and does add to the story in many ways.

While Hybrid books, like Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, have gained a tremendous popularity, they aren’t quite the same as comic books.  Still, these titles are a must have for upper elementary and middle school-aged readers.

It’s an easy sell. My secret to librarians if it has a pink cover, it will probably go. The purple cover isn’t doing too badly either!

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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