Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
With Christmas looming, Greg Heffley is unnerved by the constant threat of what could happen gift-wise if he messes up. It's too much tension for Greg, who wishes the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas could somehow magically shorten. After all, they say Santa can see you all the time, which kind of creeps Greg out. In fact, he has begun sending Santa letters to update him about his actions:
I did not throw a crab apple at Mrs. Taylor's cat, even though it might've looked that way from a distance.
Even worse, though, than Santa himself is the "Santa's Scout" doll that Mom puts out around this time of year. According to her, Santa's Scout is keeping an eye on how her kids behave. He periodically reports his "nice or naughty" findings to Santa. Santa's Scout seems to show up everywhere in Greg's house, making him uneasy. Of course, he doesn’t really believe that whole story about his reporting in, but just to be sure, he is on his best behavior around the doll.
Speaking of holiday traditions, it just wouldn't be the Heffley home if Mom wasn't bending over backwards to make Manny happy. For example, the family decorated their Christmas tree while he was napping. Big mistake! Someone hung his favorite ornament, so he threw a fit. When Mom took it off the tree so he could hang it up, Manny insisted that his be the very first ornament placed on the tree, which meant they had to remove all the decorations first to make him happy.
Bullies are a problem at Greg's school, so the students entered a contest to come up with the best anti-bullying slogan. Everyone wanted the grand prize, leading to a bit of an anti-bullying rumble. Greg's nemesis is a bully in his own neighborhood. No one knows exactly why, but this kid is nicknamed "Nasty Pants." Rowley and Greg are scared silly of Nasty Pants, going way out of their way to avoid him. Finally, they call in some backup to confront the tyrant, which doesn't turn out the way you might expect.
Greg lampoons insurance and over-the-top school safety concerns, which have resulted in a playground lacking a few necessities but burdened with some ridiculous recess rules. For various reasons, though, Greg believes the new situation may improve his chances of getting some decent grades. Still, his expectations go hilariously awry yet again.
I think anyone would agree that our Greg is not exactly role-model material, yet he keeps revealing an unexpected sweet side. Take the present his mother decided he needed the year she was expecting Manny: a "realistic doll for boys" named Baby Alfrendo. Greg developed a soft spot for Alfrendo that had nothing to do with his discovery of some activities the doll really helped him with --- such as avoiding certain foods. And then, when Alfrendo goes missing, Greg is upset over losing his doll, but he's even more upset about family dynamics. His concern causes him to act inappropriately (Of course! This is Greg Heffley we're talking about!), but his motives are actually quite admirable.
CABIN FEVER is yet another example of hilarious deadpan delivery (complete with the perfect cartoony illustrations) highlighting life not only as a kid, but somehow exposing the ridiculous side of the universal human condition. This spot-on "I've been there, too" recognition of life's foibles continues to earn these Wimpy Kidstories the "No Matter What Your Age, You're Going to Love Reading These" award.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on November 15, 2011