What We Like
Reluctant readers find it engaging and approachable
Good transition to middle reader books
Relatable doodles illustrate throughout
What We Don't Like
Simplistic vocabulary and sentence structure
Clichéd plots revolving around popularity and materialism
A few mature lines and innuendo
The Dork Diaries books by Rachel Renée Russell aren’t best sellers for nothing. However clichéd, the plot lines surrounding mean girls, cute-boy crushes, supportive BFFs, and of course, the bratty little sister appeal to younger kids, particularly girls ages 9 to 11. Basically, the series is like the book equivalent of a Disney Channel TV show. Add to that the easy-to-read font, non-challenging text, and line drawings on nearly every page, and it’s easy to see why these books work so well to engage reluctant readers and young kids transitioning to more challenging chapter books. We tasked our 12-year old daughter with reading and reviewing the Dork Diaries Box Set containing the first three installments of the series, which happens to be a pretty popular gift for 11-year-olds.
Entertainment Value: Hours of reading time
The sturdy, bright pink box houses three hardcover books (with no dust jackets). They’re the first three volumes of what’s now a growing series of 15 books. The pages inside are designed to look like that of a diary, with large, handwritten-style font on lined paper. Relatable little doodles on nearly every page illustrate the story throughout.
Each book averages about 300 pages, which might seem like a daunting challenge for young kids, but we found that the drawings (and lots of white space) made those pages go by fast. Still, with three books in the set, kids can look forward to hours of reading.
Line drawings on nearly every page, a large handwritten-style font and lots of white space mean those pages go by fast.
The highly popular books have been translated into 28 languages and each has spent many weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. But there is some backlash against them for reinforcing stereotypes and having a preoccupation with materialism and popularity. The series has also been criticized for containing simplistic language and being too similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. However, our daughter was able to identify the teachable takeaways from each story, and in our opinion, there’s value in any book that can get a kid to read more.
Age Range: Aimed at elementary school girls
The publisher lists the target age as 9 to 13 years old, but we think 9 to 11 is more accurate. While our 12-year-old still enjoyed the series, she admitted she would have liked it more in third and fourth grade, as opposed to sixth. The books are written in first-person from the point of view of a 14-year-old middle school girl. That means sentences are simply constructed (think running inner dialogue with plenty of slang) and there’s minimal use of literary devices such as imagery and metaphor.
The books give kids an easy transition from early chapter books to middle school-level books because they won’t be frustrated by words they don’t know.
The simplistic narration gives younger kids an easy transition from early chapter books to middle school-level books because they won’t be frustrated (or challenged) by words they don’t know or complex sentence structure. However, since the main characters are in middle school, some of the actions, attitudes, and dialogue seem a little mature for the typical 9- or 10-year-old reader.
Check out our guide to the best gifts for school-aged kids you can buy today.
Price: A giftable splurge
The cover price for each book is around $14. By buying them as a set for about $42, you essentially get the storage case for free. It’s true that paperback copies would be cheaper, but they wouldn’t be nearly as gift-worthy.
Since the main characters are in middle school, some of the actions, attitudes, and dialogue sometimes seemed a little mature for the typical 9- or 10-year-old reader.
Dork Diaries vs. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book was published in 2007, two years before the first Dork Diaries book. One could argue (and some do) that Dork Diaries is a girl-centric rip-off. Both books are built around simplistic line drawings and a confessional style. The main characters in both series are flawed, making poor decisions before finally doing the right thing. They’re also mutually obsessed with popularity, bullied by mean kids, and have annoying younger siblings. But these are common tropes in kid lit, and unlike its counterpart, the Dork Diaries series seems to be squarely aimed at girls—at least, those interested in fashion, makeup, and boys.
Great for reluctant elementary-age readers.
The books are easy to read and easy to follow, and although the plots are somewhat superficial, they do contain lessons and may appeal to some young girls. Reluctant readers who get intimidated by pages full of tiny text will find comfort in the big, airy font and line drawings on almost every page.
- Product Name Dork Diaries Box Set (Book 1-3)
- Product Brand Aladdin Books
- Price $41.99
- Release Date October 2011
- Weight 3.2 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 5.5 x 3.2 x 8 in.
- Manufacturer Recommended Age Range 9-13 years
- Number of Pages 928