The Barnes & Noble Review
The hilarious author of the Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books zaps fans with another new series, this time about a girl braving the trials and tribulations of middle school. Told in knee-slapping diary entries, the first installment of Jamie Kelly's tales begins as "the worst thing that can happen to you in middle school" almost occurs: getting a nasty nickname (for all of you uneducated souls out there). From there, Jamie goes on to describe a schoolmate's misfortune of using ChocoMint lip smacker; her interest in almost-hunk boy Hudson Rivers; and most of all her unkind feelings toward Angeline, a pretty blonde girl who Jamie's sure is "scorpion-like" beneath her sweet exterior. But when a mysterious culprit smacks the school's cafeteria monitor in her "neck blubber" with meatloaf, Jamie takes the heat and winds up almost-pals with Angeline. Jim Benton delivers a wonderfully silly series that combines his knack for knowing what kids love to read with fun illustrations. Young audiences will eat up Jamie's diary descriptions of stealing Angeline's hair out of the wastebasket, her "glazed" cousin, and just about every other crazy event that happens, while parents are sure to see their kids beg for more Dumb Diary books. As the subtitle suggests, we can pretend this never happened, but in reality we're sure happy it did. Shana Taylor
Benton's Dear Dumb Diary series gets off to a shaky start with this trite tale told in diary format. In daily entries, each starting with the title salutation, Jamie Kelly vents repeatedly on several topics. A die-cut cover shows the heroine, and when readers lift it, they get a preview of the themes to be introduced in the coming pages. The primary target of Jamie's tirades is her middle-school nemesis: pretty, popular, perky Angeline, who "is so perfect that the word `perfect' is probably not perfect enough for her. One day they'll probably have to invent another word for her and when they do I hope it rhymes with vomit or turd because I think I have a good idea for a song if they do." Jamie also gripes about her mother's abysmal cooking (one night she makes "some sort of mushy noodley stuff... that tasted almost exactly like socks smell") and her less than luxurious locks, which she tries to dye Angeline's shade but instead it "came out the exact color of raw chicken." Though the feisty diarist makes the occasional funny observation, more often her stabs at humor miss their mark or are so protracted that the comic moment fizzles. Inane, sketchy illustrations do little to fortify the tale. Ages 8-12. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Jamie Kelly is in middle school, and therefore suffers from one crisis after another. This book is a look at the frustrations of Jamie, which Jamie believes is caused by Angelinethe beauty of Mackerel Middle School. As Jamie writes, the reader can see how she is consumed with proving that Angeline is the center of all evil in her universe. Ironically, the two girls end up helping each other out even thought they still can't stand each other. This book is a classic example of teenage self-absorption. There are quite a few cartoonish illustrations to help the reader understand Jamie's immature fantasies and unrealistic descriptions. Benton nails the attitude of a middle school girl and all her pessimistic drama. For example, at one point Jamie "was walking the Walk of the Condemned toward Mr. Evans's class" because Jamie's dog really did eat her homework and she knows that nobody would believe a line like that, even if it was true. This book can be used as an example of how a diary can be about emotions or fantasies rather than complete truths. 2004, Scholastic Inc, Ages 8 to 12.