There are a lot of book lists out there for kids who like Diary of of a Wimpy Kid so I wasn't actually planning on making this list, but then my son started reading the series. He came to it late in the game. Many kids read the series when they are 8 or 9, even though it is a book aimed at middle school kids so I started thinking about what kids could read instead, or after they finish Wimpy Kid.
I decided to make a list of books for kids who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid that is not just full of read-alikes. There are a few of those kind of books in this post, but as I've mentioned with my other "books for kids who like..." posts, my style is to help kids expand their horizons! There is nothing wrong with read-alike books, of course. I am in no way suggesting that is the case.
What I tried to do with this list is take elements of the Wimpy Kid series and find books that branch out with one of two of those elements, whether it be the diary format, the theme of feeling awkward at school or the emphasis on illustrations to tell the story. I also included a number of book suitable for 8 and up, instead of the 11 and up range that Wimpy Kid is appropriate for. I hope you find something your child will love! (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
I, Funny: A Middle School Story (series) by James Patterson. Patterson has a number of middle school-themed books but this series has sent my son into fits of giggles. Filled with comic-style illustrations, Jamie narrates his own tale of his determination to become a stand up comic. He has a lot going on at home, but he decides to enter and win a comedy contest and won't let the judges give him the pity vote just because he is in a wheelchair.
MORE: If your kids like funny books, be sure to check out my list of 100 funny chapter books for kids
Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker. Waylon is the star of a new series by the author of Clementine. I recently read it to my 2nd grader. Waylon is a super charming 4th grader who saves his money to buy a special notebook in which to record all his ideas for inventions. But at school the "cool kid" is dividing the class into teams. How will this affect his friendships? And what about that Bully? And his sister is acting so weird! I adored this book and can't wait to read more. Suitable for kids ages 7 and up.
13 Story Tree House (series) by Andy Griffiths is an Australian import. This is the most amazing tree house ever! I mean, it includes a machine that shoots marshmallows into your mouth! The boys who live in the tree house have some seriously wacky adventures and loads of illustrations bring everything to life. Each book in the series adds several stories to the house! My son is currently on The 52 Story Tree House.
The Terrible Two (series) by Jory John and Mac Barnett. It is a epic war of tricks and pranks when Miles moves to Yawnee Valley, only to find out the school already has a master prankster in residence: Niles. Miles and Niles join forces to become the "Terrible Two" in an attempt to pull off the most epic prank ever. This book is a high interest, easy to read novel for kids who might be classified as "reluctant readers."
The Qwickpick Papers (series) by Tom Angleberger. I know you are going to be put off by the title, but anything by Tom Angleberger is worth checking out. This series is written with diary entries, illustrations, notes, cartoons, etc. and is an engaging, funny read for middle schoolers. Three friends form the "Qwikpick Adventure Society" and in this opening book in the series their mission is to see the local "poop fountain" (a sewage treatment area). Honestly, it's pretty funny, even with all the gross-ness. In the next books in the series, the kids try to top their poop fountain field trip success. (Bet you can't wait.)
Stick Cat by Tom Watson. It is usually the Stick Dog series that appears on "Books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid" lists, but Stick Cat, the diary of a funny cat has just come out and since I am more of a cat person than a dog person, I had to switch things up a bit.
Booked by Kwame Alexander. This is the wild card on the list. True, the format is nothing like Wimpy Kid. It's also not hilarious. It is written in 1st person narrative verse with no illustrations. But stay with me here. Free verse is actually great for reluctant readers. It flows rapidly and the pages are much less dense (and therefore less intimidating). Long winded description is replaced by to-the-point emotional experiences and action. Kwame Alexander's book about 12 year old Nicky is marvelous. Nicky is navigating the usual middle school drama; he is looking forward to a soccer tournament, trying to figure out how to talk to a girl, and dealing with his parents' separation. During his journey he learns to love books, and discovers that maybe his father's love of words isn't so bad after all. Best for middle school readers.
Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O'Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind. I have a bit of a soft spot for crazy long names so how could I resist this one? 7th grader Lenny Flem Jr.'s friend, Casper, comes into an unexpected windfall and purchases a suit and fake mustache. Shortly afterwards a string of robberies takes place and Casper makes a grab for world domination. Sound absurd enough for you? One of the surprising twists of this books is that half-way through, the narration switches from the Lenny (male) to Jodie (female) and somehow Angleberger makes it all work brilliantly.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Graphic novels are a great choice and there are some great ones out there. I myself do not gravitate towards this genre, but both my boys love graphic novels and my older son though Roller Girl was "awesome." Astrid signs up for roller camp and it is through participating in roller derby that she discovers her inner strength.
El Deafo by Cece Bell is a graphic novel memoir narrated by Cece, who loses here hearing due to spinal meningitis. A very funny and charming book about the experiences, imaginings and wishes of a deaf girl (actually everyone is a rabbit). Although the story will help hearing kids to see challenges of the deaf, they will also see similarities.
Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl Series) by Ben Hatke. My son and his friends love the Zita books. Zita rushes off to space in order to save her friend who has been abducted by aliens. Space turns out to be inhabited by some seriously bizarre, but entertaining creatures. There is a bit of a Wizard of Oz like feel to Zita's quest and the series is tons of fun.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. (series) Timmy Failure's format is easier to read than many other middle grade books (e.g. more accessible for kids who may still resist small type) and includes plentiful illustrations (Pastis is a cartoonist). Timmy aspires to be a great detective, but that's a bit tricky when his partner is an imaginary polar bear. Timmy is also a bit clueless and naively confident of his skills. This all sounds depressing as I write it, but the book is actually a great mix of offbeat silliness and more serious issues
The Origami Yoda Files. This series by Tom Angleberger followers a misfit middle schooler who has a penchant for paper folding and is trying to learn the social ropes of middle school (as we all know, this is a Sisyphean task). Better for middle school kids than grade school kids (in my opinion).
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. Raise your hand if you read this 1973 book when you were a kid! If you haven't yet read it, do not judge a book by its title. This is a smart, funny, suspenseful book which paints a realistic portrait of boys in a state of "war" against each other. I bought this book for Kiddo as one of his first-day-of-third-grade-books. Billy accepts a challenge to eat 15 worms in 15 days. The prize is a whopping $50. While Billy thinks of new ways to make the worms palatable, his competitors come up with increasingly complex ways to outwit him.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Kids who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid can enjoy the classics, too! When her journal is stolen and her peers learn the unflattering things she wrote about them she finds herself an outcast. What makes Harriet so wonderful is that she is a real person. She is not always (maybe not even often) pleasant to everyone, she makes mistakes, but she is smart and resourceful. Awesome.
Charlie Joe Jackson by Tommy Greenwald (series). My 11 year old loves this series and I frequently hear him laughing out loud. Charlie Joe Jackson is a new middle schooler and in the first book in the series he attempts to maintain his record of not reading a book in its entirety. Fellow reluctant readers will understand, but they will finish this book, nevertheless.
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick may seem like an usual choice for this book list. I included it because of the unique reliance upon illustrations to tell a story. Two narratives come together. Ben's story of his longing for his father is told through text. Rose's dreams of an actress is told through pictures. The stories are 50 years apart but when they come together at the American Museum of Natural History, kids will gasp in wonder. (I couldn't resist saying that.)
Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time (series) by Lisa Yee. I've mentioned other books in this companion book trilogy before but the academic struggles Stanford faces make it a great choice for this list. Stanford loves basketball, but he won't be able to play anymore if he doesn't improve his grades. Plus, he worries that Emily Ebbers (who has her own book) won't like him anymore if that happens. To top it off, he has to be tutored by an annoying girl genius, Millicent (who also has her own book)!
Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (series) by Jack Gantos. Joey is dealing with some tough situations, not least of which is the failure of Ritalin to control is ADD. This is a great book that addresses what insensitive adults would label "bad behavior" in school. It is at times humorous, but also deals with hard situations. National Book Award Finalist.
The Bolds by Julian Clary. I read this very weird and very funny book out loud to my 7 year old. A pair of hyenas assume the identity of a British couple, leave their home in Africa and move into a home in England. (I said it was weird.) They raise a pair of pups and spend their time avoiding having their true identities revealed, sussing out the strange neighbor and rescuing fellow hyenas from the local zoo. Kids who also like Roald Dahl will get a kick out of this book.
Alvin Ho (series) by Leonore Look. I love Alvin Ho and cannot resist encouraging you (yet again) to pick up one of these books for your child. Alvin suffers from anxiety over many things and this leads him to become mute at school. Nevertheless, his family life, antics and tales of how he navigates "scary things" never fail to charm. Great for ages 7 and up.
Justin Case (series) Introverted and sensitive Justin Case is very, very, very nervous about starting third grade. I love how authentic Justin is; he analyzes everything from soccer, to his friends and "enemies", to advanced math problems. Vail wrote Justin's story in diary format, with some short sentences mirroring Justin's thoughts. Great for ages 7 and up.
Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce (series). You've probably already heard of this series if you have kids who also read Wimpy Kid, but it's worth mentioning again. There are a zillion Big Nate books so the advantage is that kid will do a lot of reading if this series hits the right note with them. Nate is in sixth grade and his misadventures get him into all sorts of humorous situations. Parents who don't like the humor in Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants may not like these books. I've never been concerned that my kids will start misbehaving at school because of a book, but use your own judgement.
More book lists inspired by popular titles:
- Books for kids who like Harry Potter
- Books for kids who like Roald Dahl
- Books for kids who like Percy Jackson
- Books for kids who like Beverly Cleary
- Books for kids who like the Warriors series
- Books for kids who like The Chronicles of Narnia
- Books for kids who like Little House on the Praire