|Robb's Rambling Reviews||
In How to Dork Your Diary, we find our protagonist, Nikki Maxwell in a bit of a bind. You see Nikki has lost her diary, and you know what that means. Chaos! Rachel Russell, writer and illustrator of the Dork Diaries, uses the graphic novel in diary format to create yet another link in the chain of trial and tribulations for our pal Nikki. We follow Nikki as she searches for the lost diary from one scatter brained idea to the next, from light hearted mood, to panic, to exacerbation with Russell’s line-drawn characters and interactive drawings. Not only do the silly drawings assist with creating the novel’s overall mood, but the addition of arrows, hearts, thought bubbles, and comic asides helps pull the same mood along throughout the whole book.
The use of graphics in the story also assist in reinforcing the story’s plot. Has she left the diary somewhere? Nikki looks under the bathroom stall. Has Chloe taken it? Line drawing of diary falling out of Chloe’s bag. Has her archenemy absconded with it? Illustration of Mackenzie passing out free copies! No matter what harebrained scheme Nikki cooks up in her head, Russell creates a complementary comic to go along with it. Dumpster diving? Got ya’ covered. Shirtless werewolf guys? No problem. Girls in the boy’s football locker-room. Check. Of course the book isn’t wordless, but the simplistic drawings act as a major plot point, pointing the reader in the direction Russell wants us to go.
One of my favorite elements of How to Dork Your Diary are the comic asides Russell scatters throughout the novel. Sideways glances, crazy large and funny fonts, and talking poodles all help tell the story without actually saying a word. By having Nikki talk directly to the audience with her face staring up at us, readers almost feel like they are in a one-on-one conversation with the heroine herself. Russell also creates a number of “notes to self” throughout the novel where Nikki steps aside to give diary writing pointers to her readers. These sweet, concise, tidbits help educate new diarists and remind seasoned ones just how a diary works. “Your diary belongs to you,” she writes, “no matter what your bratty little sister thinks. You can write about your day, your crush, or absolutely anything else you want to, anytime you want!"
Did someone say diary? Like the ones my older sister used to keep under her bed? Seriously, did she think that was a very clever hiding place? Surely not with a bratty little brother like me! I lived to torture that poor kid. I can’t believe she still talks to me, let alone likes me! Each step of Nikki’s search for her missing diary reminded me of my sister at that age. From best friends, to stories of annoying teachers, to boy crushes I relived my younger years living with a slightly crazy older sister through Russell’s How to Dork Your Diary. More than the story line, however, I was drawn to the good old fashioned idea of using a diary or journal to record our lives. There once was a time where everyone, men and women, young and old, documented their lives. Madame Curie (whose diaries are unfortunately actually radioactive), Leonardo da Vinci, Frida Kahlo, and Anne Frank all kept journals and diaries throughout their lives, and much of what we know about these people today comes from these important documents. So more than just pure entertainment, Russell is helping coax another generation into the art of journaling, an art we soon may lose thanks to today’s invasive use of technology and social media. Thanks for the helping hand, Rachel!
In a genre dominated by male readers, Rachel Russell has created a series of graphic novels which impressively appeal to tween-girls. Thanks to her simplistic, yet charming line drawings she is able to create quite a hilarious mood throughout her work. Not only do the drawings and annotations enhance the overall feeling of the book, but they also assist in moving the plot along. Her use of comic asides and motivating instructions in creating your own journal or diary are scattered through the work, making it a pleasure to read. A fun read for any tween girl (or boy, too).
Citation: Russell, R. R. (2011). How to dork your diary. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.