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48 pages 1 hour read

Jeff Kinney

Double Down

Fiction | Graphic Novel/Book | Middle Grade | Published in 2016

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down is the 11th installment in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series written and illustrated by American author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney. The series has been ongoing since the first book was published in 2007, with new books still being published today. Like many of Kinney’s books, Double Down sold extremely well, becoming one of the top sellers of 2016—the year it was originally published. Several Diary of a Wimpy Kid books have been adapted for film, but Double Down is not yet one of them. Double Down features the same characters as previous Wimpy Kid books. It is written in the form of a middle-school boy’s diary. There are highly stylized illustrations throughout the text to accompany the story. Double Down focuses primarily on the weeks leading up to Halloween, following protagonist Greg Heffley through various misadventures including an attempt to make his own horror movie.

This guide uses the 2016 print edition of the novel published by Amulet Books.

Plot Summary

Double Down opens in October, a few weeks shy of Halloween. Greg Heffley, a middle-schooler, writes in his diary about his suspicion that everyone around him is secretly an actor and that he is the star of a television show. He deliberately behaves in entertaining ways for his imagined audience’s benefit. Greg also imagines other possibilities: maybe he is being observed by aliens, or maybe his deceased relatives are watching over him. The opening chapters introduce Greg’s family, including his parents, his older brother Rodrick Heffley, and his younger brother Manny. They also introduce his best friend, a sweet but gullible boy named Rowley Jefferson

Mrs. Heffley believes that Greg is smart, but because he never applies himself, Greg’s school performance remains mediocre. At a school book fair, Greg buys books in the Spineticklers series—a set of horror novels for children. Inspired by one of the books, Greg imagines becoming rich and freezing his body so that he can be resurrected at some point in the future. Greg discusses his family’s efforts to decorate their house for Halloween. This year, particularly aggressive migratory geese have destroyed all of their jack-o’-lanterns. 

At school, the students release helium balloons as part of an event called the Balloon Brigade. Each balloon includes a note asking that it be returned, and the student whose balloon travels the farthest will win a jar of candy corn. Greg can’t find the Halloween candy that his mother has purchased and hidden, so he is determined to win the candy corn. He writes a long, pleading letter and attaches it to his balloon. While he waits to get the balloon back, Greg writes a biography of I. M. Spooky, the author of the Spineticklers books. He learns that I. M. Spooky does not really exist: The books are ghostwritten. 

Several days later, Greg gets a visit from a woman named Mrs. Selsam and her son, Maddox Selsam. They live in a nearby town and have found Greg’s balloon. Mrs. Heffley encourages Greg to befriend Maddox, but the two have little in common as Maddox has grown up without access to television or video games. Instead, he spends his free time making elaborate Lego sculptures. Mrs. Heffley is disappointed that the two boys do not get along. On the upside, Greg does win the jar of candy corn. Mrs. Heffley decides to return to school to complete her master’s degree, so she tries to get her sons to help out more with household chores as she is busy with her classes. Greg and Rodrick do everything in their power to avoid actually completing any chores.

Greg’s family has a pet pig. One day, Greg realizes that the pig has eaten his entire jar of candy corn. Greg and Rodrick take the pig to the vet; it vomits in Rodrick’s van on the way there. Greg is sick in turn, and a woman who sees him vomit calls the police, thinking that the boys are up to no good. When the police arrive, Greg and Rodrick explain the situation. Mrs. Heffley is disappointed in Greg for what she calls a “pattern of deception,” (105) as he regularly tells lies. Greg admits that he does lie, but also remembers some lies his family members have told him.

Hoping to help him get more invested in his future, Mrs. Heffley brings Greg to her college campus. He meets a girl in the library who asks him to tutor her in psychology. Greg studies hard, hoping to impress her, but soon learns that she has a boyfriend. As Halloween approaches, Greg wonders how he can get an invitation to a party hosted by Mariana Mendoza, a popular girl in his grade. Only kids who are in the school band are going to be invited, so Greg decides to learn to play the French horn. His parents are happy that he is showing initiative, but his motivations really have nothing to do with music, and he never practices playing his instrument.

Greg and Rowley attend Mariana’s party dressed as a two-headed “monster.” Mrs. Heffley joins the party, setting up Halloween games. Greg is mortified, but the other kids play the games with enthusiasm. In November, Greg loses interest in the French horn altogether, but his father insists that he has to keep playing so that he can learn perseverance. Greg and Rowley are both supposed to play in their school’s Fall Concert, but they accidentally lock themselves in a small room next to the stage and miss the show. Again, Greg incurs his parents’ ire.

Greg finds the remainder of his mother’s Halloween candy. He and Rowley decide to make a horror film with a plot inspired by the Spineticklers books. The movie is about a man who gets attacked by thousands of living gummy worms. Although Greg has a spectacular grand plan for the project, the reality does not live up to his expectations. The boys struggle to create special effects for the film, and the script remains unfinished. They film a few scenes, but the aggressive geese from earlier in the story surround the house. Frightened, the boys hide in the basement, but an old Halloween decoration scares Rowley and he runs outside and climbs a tree. He gets rescued from the tree and is featured on the news, gaining a degree of local fame. Greg says that he would never act silly just for an audience.

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