Comic Guy (#3): Kooks in the Cafeteria
By Timothy Roland
ISBN 9780545003995
Grades 2-4
Available in Scholastic Book Order

Is there room in the world for derivative works of children’s lit? I encourage you to read “Comic Guy” and find out what camp you reside in. Are you a “life’s too short to read knock-off books” person? Or do you prescribe to the “readin’ is readin'” outlook? Working with kids in school libraries, I have to say that for some students, I’ll take whatever I can get. I think that puts me in the second of the two groups. Obviously inspired by the insanely popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books in content and format, “Comic Guy” strives to be a Wimpy Kid for the younger elementary school crowd. Sometimes funny, sometimes cringe-inducing, “Comic Guy” will appeal to some young readers looking for a “Wimpy Kid” read-alike.

Guy Maloney publishes a comic strip in his elementary school newspaper, and uses situations from his life to make his strip. He has no shortage of material. Guy finds himself in trouble quite a bit. After falling asleep during math and blaming it on the heavy cafeteria food, Principal Hawk hands down a punishment befitting the crime: a week of kitchen duty with the dreaded Mrs. Wolf. It doesn’t take long for Guy to realize that most of the work falls to kitchen assistant Mrs. Beany while Mrs. Wolf mysteriously disappears into the office. After his comic strip comes under fire from teachers and his editor, Guy must come up with a good article to save his strip. Guy decides to find out what Mrs. Wolf is doing in her office.

The text is intermixed with drawings and also Comic Guy strips. As you might expect with a book like this aimed at 2nd-4th graders, the jokes are a bit low brow. Groan-worthy punchlines are frequent. While “Wimpy Kid” is garnering acclaim for encapsulating middle school life, the connection between “Comic Guy” and elementary school is a stretch. Did your K-5 building have a school newspaper with a student editor? As a elementary school kid did you have large blocks of free time in the day to get into hi-jinx? Guy’s got both, making the setting more middle school-ish than most K-Fivers can relate to.

So in the end it breaks down like so: it’s kinda like something popular. It’s kinda fun. And it might persuade some reluctant readers to take it for a spin. Maybe that last one is the important thing. I guess it depends on where you stand.