Dork Diaries 5: Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All
In kids' lit today, one trend is the graphic novel diary like the Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renée Russell. In them, readers follow middle-schooler Nikki Maxwell as she navigates the tricky world of the private school she attends on scholarship, not to mention relationships with her family and friends. Russell’s chapter books are fun and easy reading that parents and teachers cannot begrudge young readers.
"TALES FROM A NOT-SO-SMART MISS KNOW-IT-ALL, like its four Dork Diaries predecessors, is mostly concerned with Nikki’s attempts to be a normal middle school girl who is true to herself."
Dork Diaries #5: TALES FROM A NOT-SO-SMART MISS KNOW-IT-ALL finds the titular dork, Nikki, celebrating the New Year, counting down to midnight with her best friends Chloe and Zoey and eating junk food in pajamas. But an innocent game of truth or dare gets suddenly serious when Nikki is dared to toilet paper the house of her nemesis, popular and mean girl MacKenzie. Before she knows it, Nikki, with her BFF’s in tow, sneaks out of the house with rolls of TP in hand. When MacKenzie discovers the three pranksters in her bushes, it sets off yet another tense battle between her and Nikki. This time it may actually get Nikki kicked out of school!
In order to thwart MacKenzie’s evil plans (and as a way to spend more time with her cute crush, Brandon), Nikki takes a job at the lackluster school newspaper. Soon her Miss Know-it-All advice column is boosting the paper’s circulation and hundreds of students (and even a few teachers!) are writing in for her honest and funny advice. But, as the letters pile up and MacKenzie blackmails her to get an invitation to Brandon’s birthday party, Nikki’s New Year is not feeling very happy. Add in the fact that her father has gone to work for MacKenzie’s father, Nikki’s outlook is getting bleaker by the day. But with help from a couple of unexpected sources, by the last page things are once again looking up for Nikki.
TALES FROM A NOT-SO-SMART MISS KNOW-IT-ALL, like its four Dork Diaries predecessors, is mostly concerned with Nikki’s attempts to be a normal middle school girl who is true to herself. She is often embarrassed by her family and engaged in negative confrontations with MacKenzie. Sometimes Nikki makes bad decisions (like sneaking out of the house on New Year’s Eve), but in general, she is a good kid trying to fit in, assert her originality and have fun. This latest addition to the successful series is not quite as funny as the others; perhaps this is because the stakes are high for Nikki here, but it is still sweet and the stylized cartoon pictures remain a perfect companion to the text.
The Dork Diaries books, including TALES FROM A NOT-SO-SMART MISS KNOW-IT-ALL, fills an important niche: light books that are both funny and to a certain extent, realistic. The truth is that readers, especially girls between about 9 and 12 years old will really enjoy this book and as long as they are reading, it is a good thing!
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on October 26, 2012