How Dorkalicious Are You?

Dork Diaries:  Tales from a Not-So-Talented Pop Star

Author:  Rachel Renee Russell

Here’s a Good Part:

“And then while I’m rotting in prison (and having superfun mani/pedi cell-block parties with all those celebs), I’ll realize what a horrible mess I’ve made of my life and totally regret that I DIDN’T give my dad that telephone message from Principal Watson!” (p. 151)

Russell’s third installment in this series finds Nikki, our heroine, caught up in the middle school talent show.  Her life is still a “dramafest”, this time around with embarrassment over her dad’s job and some semi-deadly run-ins with her arch-nemesis Mackenzie, queen of the CCP (Cute, Cool & Popular) clique at her school.

Dork Diaries is a series that combines text and illustrations  similar to Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid franchise.  Russell’s drawings often act as thoughtshots and her stories capture middle school angst in an over-the-top and amusing fashion.  Nikki stays likable through multiple panic attacks, from avoiding incriminating YouTube videos to misunderstanding with her BFFs.  I’ve had some success introducing the previous books in this series to some of my reluctant girl readers.  Though the reading level comes in around 5.8, the school setting and illustrations support comprehension well.

For Writers Workshop:  Russell uses many made-up words like “fabtastic” and “dorkalicious”, and I can envision introducing this writer’s craft point alongside something like Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”.  Her use of illustrations as thoughtshots/internal monologue balances the external story elements, and it gets me thinking about trying a similar strategy with my writers that tend toward external to encourage them to include more internal story.

For Readers Workshop:  Besides appealing to some reluctant girl readers, I can see Dork Diaries being used to work on discovering themes.  Longer storylines will make many fifth grade readers struggle with theme, but Russell’s stories are strongly thematic (believe in yourself, stick by your friends) throughout, making them a stepping stone between picture books and more complex novels.

I just love this, don't you?


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