Reading Post Greg and Rodrick: What to Read After Diary of a Wimpy Kid

When Harry Potter first arrived around 1998, I remember scrounging diligently to come up with a list of just ten fantasy titles to recommend to kids who loved J. K. Rowling's novel. Seriously. Less than twenty years ago there were only a handful of quality fantasy works for that age group. But once Harry, Hermione, and Ron took the publishing word by storm, marketers quickly realized there's money to be had in kids and teen books. Lots of it.

Kids books are an industry unlike anything they were in the past. Fast forward about 15 years from the first appearance of the Harry Potter series, and well, I don't have to tell you ... you've seen what happened with Twilight and The Hunger Games. The good news is that the unprecedented buying power of the youngest millenials means that once a genre of book takes off, there is quickly similar stuff to choose from.

Jeff Kinney's made millions on The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and just like Rowling, deservedly so. His combination of super cool line drawings, hilarious dialogue, empathy for the underdog, and understanding of the awkwardness of middle-school life have earned him incredible popularity amongst kids ages eight to twelve. One really nice thing about Kinney's books is that they bridge the gap between comic books/graphic novels and more traditional chapter books, so they're awesome for reluctant readers. (This also makes them great summer reads if you're trying to get your kids away from the iPad and into reading when school is out, and they're less than obliging.)

The only problem is that Kinney's books are quick reads (unlike the weighty Potter tomes) and only come out annually in November. In other words, they don't last long, although my nine year old has worked around that by reading the entire series three times. So what's a kid who loves Wimpy Kid, but needs to branch out while waiting for the next installment, to do? Fear not; once a series like Wimpy Kid generates bazillions of dollars (and a bunch of movies), you're guaranteed the entire publishing industry will jump on the bandwagon and seek out more of the same kinds of books. That means there's lots more where Greg and Rodrick came from. So Wimpy Kid fans (and their parents), consider these titles or check out the list on Pinterest below. Many of these books are series so these could potentially keep your junior busy for a long while!

The Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings

Middle School series by James Patterson and collaborators

The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley

My Life as A Book series by Janet Tashjian

Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell

Sisters, Smile, and Drama by Raina Telgemeier

The Loser List series by H. N. Kowitt

Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce

Diary of a Sixth Grade Ninja series by Marcus Emerson

Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis

Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger

Stick Dog series by Tom Watson

Star Wars Jedi Academy series by Jeffrey Brown

Ellie McDoodle Diaries series by Ruth McNally Barshaw

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish series by Mo O'Hara

Odd Squad series by Michael Fry

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg

Charlie Joe Jackson series by Tommy Greenwald

Justin Case series by Rachel Vail

Amelia's Notebook series by Marissa Moss

Frank Einstein series by Jon Scieszka

Kate the Great, Except When She's Not by Suzy Becker

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy Cavanaugh

N.E.R.D.S. series by Michael Buckley

El Deafo by Cece Bell

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Fly Guy, Ivy and Bean, Dinosaur vs. and more

Most people mark the ides of March (or at least a few days afterward) with green beer, but in the subtropics it means something vastly more important ... Southwest Florida Reading Festival time. Because we are where we are, a lot of very excellent authors don't mind coming down for a break from shoveling snow to hawk their wares, or at least present and sign them. This year's reading fest takes place Saturday, March 16 down on the riverfront and I'm really excited about the line-up for the kid set. Plus the Greek food vendor, of course.

The good news is that even if you're not spending the end of winter in paradise, you can still check out these writers and illustrators:

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Tedd Arnold's Fly Guy Series

Dr. Seuss rescued us from the monotony of Dick and Jane, and a generation later a couple of authors have moved the easy reader genre even further forward. (Mo Willems, the reigning king of the beginning reader, needs his own post later.) Tedd Arnold's Fly Guy has earned his ranking in the easy reader hall of fame. Where else can you read a book and come away with warm feelings about a fly that is actually cute? With just a few words per page and good repetition, these are perfect for very beginning readers. Even better, they are hilariously funny, so adults can stand reading them, too! 

Once you move past the easy reader days, check out Arnold's Parts. It's even funnier and spawned two sequels.

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The Ivy + Bean Series by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall

Ivy and Bean are two sevenish-year-old girls who like to get into trouble together, sometimes involving playing pranks on babysitters and older siblings. If you're a literalist who thinks kids books should only feature well-behaved children with no penchant for misadventure, this is not the series for you. (We won't discuss whether or not you are missing the point of fun reading.) But if you like spunk combined with wonderful pencil drawings, I highly recommend these. Ivy + Bean (there are now nine books in the series) is a great next step from Junie B. or Horrible Harry, and perfect for most first through third graders. 

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Bob Shea's Dinosaur vs. Series

If you view life with your preschooler as one wrestling match after another, both between you and your kid and your kid and the situations s/he encounters, you should own at least one book from this series. Whether he's riding a bike, going to bed, visiting the library, or meeting Santa, Dinosaur tackles (literally) each new experience with aplomb. Frenetic energy, a strong sense of invincibility, and lots of loudness are the hallmarks of this series. Dinosaur says, "ROAR ROAR ROAR DINOSAUR WINS," and indeed, the Dinosaur vs. books do just that.

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Kadir Nelson

This is the author/illustrator I am most looking forward to seeing at the reading festival. Nelson is a multiple-award winning artist, whose outsized, detailed renderings have brought numerous juvenile biographies to the next level. His books suit kids from about second through sixth grades. My two favorites are Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom and Abe's Honest Words. Above is the cover from Nelson's latest title, Nelson Mandela. I have a thing for children's biographies and even more of a thing for those that are particularly well delivered. Kadir Nelson is where that's at. 

Besides the list above, Gail Carson Levine (remember Ella Enchanted?) and Melanie Watt (Chester is very cool!) will be present, along with three young adult authors and hordes of adult ones. Every kid gets a free book and lots of crafts and other shows are available. Plus the Greek food. Join me.