Jeff Kinney’s done it yet again, in uproarious style, with his ninth installment in the Wimpy Kid series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. Replete with Kinney’s dry-as-toast humor and laugh-out-loud-funny illustrations, The Long Haul chronicles the Heffleys’ doomed summer vacation, in which Greg, Rodrick, Dad, and Manny are subjected to Mom Heffley’s attempt at an educational road trip. As expected, things start to go delightfully wrong from the moment the family minivan is hooked up to Dad’s boat—a boat that can’t float, but can haul luggage—and the collision course with disaster continues until the Heffleys limp home. Dare we say this Wimpy episode provides more guffaws per page than any of its predecessors? Here are four reasons we think The Long Haul is Kinney’s funniest book to date.
The Omnipresent Enemy
The first night of vacation finds the Heffleys at a dive motel where the least of their problems is a frozen pizza Rodrick locks into the jewelry safe, mistaking it for a microwave. The Heffleys soon meet a boisterous (and hirsute) family who monopolizes the hot tub, takes midnight rides on cleaning carts, and is subsequently loudly reprimanded by Greg. “The Beardos,” as Greg aptly nicknames them, are soon appearing everywhere the Heffleys want to go—be it a state fair serving all-things-fried on a stick (where Rodrick wins the smelly shoe contest and Manny wins a pet pig), or a water park where Greg is kicked out of the wave pool for claiming he’s naked and the whole family goes on a mad search for a missing locker key. For the Heffleys, there’s no escaping the hairy clan in the purple van, and these hilariously drawn antagonists fill The Long Haul with rollicking callbacks.
The Outrageousness Factor
Never fear: it’s not just the Beardos who botch things up for Greg and his genetic gang. There are plenty of other escapades and exploits in this gut-busting episode, including: seagull attacks, a trip to the world’s biggest piece of popcorn, U.S. Presidents carved out of butter, a work call for Dad that ends in roadway disaster, and a veterinary appointment to treat Greg’s pig bite, where he waits for the doctor behind “ a gerbil that had swallowed a cigarette and a cat that got its face stuck in a yogurt container.” When nothing goes well for the Heffleys, it’s always great news for readers.
Tangents and Detours
On top of all this, in true Kinney form, The Long Haul offers up a boatload of digressions and flashbacks that provide not only belly laughs, but deeper insight into the lovable, laughable psyche of main character Greg. There’s the time he thought the television could read his mind, the time he and Rodrick held up “These people are kidnapping us!” signs and nearly got his parents arrested, and the time Greg wrote a fan letter to deceased author Nathaniel Hawthorne. But one of the wackiest asides in the book is the overview of Greg’s favorite book series (Underpants Bandits), wherein two friends steal the briefs and boxers of famous people for museums. Just reading the titles and excerpts from this make-believe series will provide five minutes of laughs that have little to do with the Heffley road trip. Series titles include: Underpants Bandits and Shakespeare’s Skivvies, Underpants Bandits and Napoleon’s Britches, and Underpants Bandits and Lincoln’s Longjohns.
The Mom Component
More than any other Kinney book, The Long Haul shines a light on Greg’s mother and her idiosyncrasies with the most comical of results. There’s her obsession with Family Frolic magazine, her insistence on packing Manny’s potty, her Flat Stanley sidekick, and her various attempts to educate her kids with Spanish instructional tapes, the “Alphabet Groceries” game, and a diversion called “I Must Confess” that goes horribly wrong. But Mom’s at her well-meaning best in this book, with fast-food replacements called Mommy Meals. Greg seems terribly disappointed that they can’t stop for burgers, but what’s not to love about a tuna sandwich, a carton of milk, and a deck of math flash cards wrapped in foil as a special toy?
The Long Haul is destined, like its siblings before it, to pass both kid and parent tests, with its all-ages humor and close-to-home antics. A cross between a National Lampoon screenplay and a Choose Your Own Adventure book, this ninth new addition is, in our humble opinion, the best Wimpy Kid yet. Be sure to tuck one in your carry-on if you plan on heading anywhere with family this holiday season; it’s the perfect comic relief for too much time with the people you love.