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The Dumbest Idea Ever!: A Graphic Novel

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What if the dumbest idea ever turned your life upside down?

At thirteen, Jimmy was popular, at the top of his class, and the leading scorer on his basketball team. But all that changed when chicken pox forced him to miss the championship game. Things went from bad to worse when he got pneumonia and missed even more school. Before Jimmy knew it, his grades were sinking and nothing seemed to be going right.

How did Jimmy turn things around, get back on top at school, and land a date with the cutest girl in class?

Renowned comics creator Jimmy Gownley shares his adventures as he grows from an eager-to-please boy into a teenage comic book artist. This is the real-life story of how the DUMBEST idea ever became the BEST thing that ever happened to him.

238 pages, Paperback

First published February 25, 2014

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About the author

Jimmy Gownley

84 books100 followers
Jimmy Gownley is the author and illustrator of the Amelia Rules! series of graphic novels, as well as the memoir The Dumbest Idea Ever!.

He has been nominated for 13 Eisner awards and 6 Harvey awards. His book Superheroes won the 2006 Cybil Award for best graphic novel for kids 12 and under.

He lives in Pennsylvania.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 474 reviews
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,747 followers
June 24, 2014
Is it or is it not a good idea to tell young people that they are special and unique? It’s a legitimate question. When I was growing up the emphasis in school was clearly on self-esteem. On Track and Field Day everybody got the standard participation ribbon. Effort, even minimal effort, was rewarded. And if you grew up in a small town there was the extra added benefit of getting to be a big fish in a small pond. The combination of being told you were one-of-a-kind, the best of the best, and more combined with local aplomb has a way of going to a kid’s head. It’s the stuff of the best memoirs, actually, but usually of the adult or YA variety. Not a lot of kids stop to think about how they stack up against the rest of the world when they’re trying to find their feet. What makes The Dumbest Idea Ever different, then, is that it combines the familiar children’s book motif of “finding the thing that makes you special” and the takes it one step further to say “but not THAT special . . . and that’s okay.” I’ve never really seen anything like it. Then again, I’ve never really ever seen an artist like Jimmy Gownley – a guy who has paid his dues and just cranks out better and better work all the time as a result. And The Dumbest Idea Ever gives us a hint of how he got started.

Jimmy’s not special. He was for a while, making the best grades and acting as the star of his Catholic school’s basketball team. But a bout of chicken pox followed by pneumonia changes everything. When Jimmy’s grades start to slip it feels like they’re now out of his control. And faced with the knowledge that he’s no longer special, Jimmy starts turning to the comfort of his comic books more than ever. When a comic he writes inspires a friend to suggest he do something a little more realistic, Jimmy’s not convinced (hence the book’s title). Yet a realistic comic is exactly what propels him out of local obscurity into small time stardom. Now he’s dating the cutest girl in school, getting interviewed by the local news, the works! It’s all going great, but what happens when you discover that the work you’ve been doing isn’t as big and important as you always thought? What happens when you realize that you’ve only just begun?

I’ve noticed an odd little theme in the middle grade (ages 9-12) novels of 2014. A lot of books are tackling the idea of what it means to be average. Books like Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff, where the kid really isn’t exceptional and never will be. It’s like we were afraid to talk about this to children in the past, opting instead to drill it into our kids that they have to excel in everything at all times. Now in the age of helicopter parenting and overbooked schedules, literature for kids is backing off a tad. Admitting that while some kids really are extraordinary, for others it’s okay not to be top of your class or the best in all categories. The journey Jimmy takes in this book starts with his fall from grace as the golden boy of school. It's the slippery slope of no longer being top dog and then having to deal with that.

I’m one of those children’s librarians who honestly thinks that Jimmy Gownley’s Amelia Rules series is one of the greatest graphic novel arcs in children’s literary history of all time. I own every single book in the series and reread them constantly. For me, Gownley’s characters are flesh and blood and real to me in ways I’ve almost never encountered anywhere else. What’s more, the books get better as they go and aren’t afraid to bring up big questions and dark issues. When Gownley ended the series I was heartbroken. I waited with baited breath for him to give me something similar. ANYTHING, really. So when I heard that he’d penned a graphic memoir of his own life as a kid I was thrilled beyond measure . . . and wary. I’ve been burned before, man, and memoirs of children’s book authors are tricky things. I love ‘em but they’re tricky. Does the writer encapsulate their entire life or just a section? What’s interesting about The Dumbest Idea Ever is that it’s the closest thing I’ve found to Raina Telgemeier’s Smile. Yet through it all there is something distinctly Gownleyish about this entire endeavor that you’d never mistake for anyone else. And how he chooses to frame the book is exceedingly smart.

The heart of the novel, as I see it, is the personal journey we all have to take at some point. We all want to be good at something. Preferably something cool that few others around us are as good at. We want acclaim for this specialness. And then, ultimately, what we really want is universal love and acceptance, preferably without a whole lot of work. It’s that last desire that’ll get you in the end. The crux of the book comes with Jimmy visits New York City for the first time. In some ways, NYC was created for the sole purpose of crushing little souls, like Jimmy, into the dust under its grimy shoe. No matter how good you are at something, there’s somebody in NYC who’s better and the city isn’t afraid to let you know about that fact repeatedly. And when you face the fact that you are, indeed, ordinarily a big fish in a small pond, what do you do? Do you try to better yourself so that you can compete in a big pond, do you relegate yourself to your small pond (no shame in that), or do you give up entirely? That’s something kids everywhere need to think about, even if the choices we’re talking about won’t be something they need to deal with for a couple years.

The thing that librarians tend to forget about children is that they love reading about older kids. You think large swaths of 17-year-olds are reading Archie comics just because the kids are in high school? Not even. So when Jimmy allows himself (so to speak) to enter into high school and to start dating, I didn’t even blink. My worry is that someone will read this book, see that the character ages, and slot this book solely into the YA section of their bookstore or library. And certainly there’s nothing wrong with that. A teen would get a lot out of Jimmy’s journey too. Still I think there’s a lot of value in letting kids see what happens when a child like themselves has their ego squashed into a small pile of goo (to their betterment). It’s nothing something I’ve found in that many books for children, after all.

I live and work in New York City where all the kids I see are little fishies in the world’s biggest pond. You’ll always find little ponds within a big one (my metaphors are breaking down – abandon ship!) so kids will always find people and places that praise them, even when surrounded by a mass of other talented people. That said, NYC kids miss out on the experience of feeling special in a smaller setting. It’s something that yields remarkably creative people, and if they follow that drive to keep going and to succeed based on their own hard work then you sometimes end up with something really cool . . . like The Dumbest Idea Ever. It’s a graphic memoir covering a subject both original and incredibly familiar. Your children’s book bookshelves are better off with this book on them.

For ages 9 and up.
Profile Image for Jicky.
8 reviews
March 10, 2021
"the dumbest idea ever!" By Jimmy Guwnley is about a boy called Jimmy Guwnley who love to draw comics , but his teacher doesn't want to let him draw. we think is book is a very fun book , because I like drawing too, and when I was drawing , I feel time go fast too. at the beginning of the book the teacher and his classmates are laughing at him.
As the book continues, Guwnley met his favorite girl, later, Guwnley draws his first book, and cell by two dollar. In the end of the book , He sold the comic books he drew and became a cartoonist. The characters in this book are very good, the plot is ups and downs, it is recommended for everyone to read :D
Profile Image for Kyleigh M.
40 reviews45 followers
October 19, 2018
I am typically not one for graphic novels but really liked this one. It's an autobiography of the author's life and I really enjoyed the storyline. Would recommend to my classmates.
32 reviews46 followers
March 10, 2019
I'm not a big fan of graphic novels but this book was really good. It is about a 13-year-old boy that was a straight A student and leading player on his basketball team. Suddenly he got the chicken pox and pneumonia, which made him miss his championship basketball game. He was blamed for the loss and everything went south. His grades dropped and everything. His parents were getting worried about him. He had to find a way to turn things around. He eventually got a date with the cutest girl in the school, named Ellen. Things went great for a while until...
I thought that this book was great because it was pretty realistic. The scenarios were pretty realistic. I found this book interesting and I would recommend it to anyone.
Profile Image for Angel Fame.
26 reviews
October 4, 2016
I love this book because it's funny and interesting. Jimmy loves to read comic books, he even makes his own. This guy in his class has chicken pox and it spread to him, i guess. He couldn't even go to school so his grades were going down. There was a basketball game coming up and they lost because he wasn't there to play so now, everyone is blaming him. He likes this girl and he was going to ask her out but he was too scared. He decided to just go for it and she said yes. They went to New York to visit a museum full of arts. They were dating for awhile now until prom came. That same night, they argued a lot and they broke up. It was so sad because Jimmy got dumped on prom night. They had a basketball game again and they lost but Jimmy seemed to be happy because he scored many points. He published a comic book and many people liked it so much that he was on TV. His friend help him think of an idea but he thinks it was pretty dumb. Jimmy decided to write it anyways and look what has came, thanks to his friend's help. From then, he made more comic books.
Profile Image for Jessica.
738 reviews73 followers
July 7, 2014

I want to buy multiple adults copies of this book every time they discourage a kid from picking up a comic book or graphic novel. Just from my librarian experience, countless parents come to bemoan the fact that their child will never become the Harvard scholar that they are suppose to be since they only are interested in reading comics, and not great works of classic literature. I wish I could hand this book out to adults every time they discourage a kid from picking up a comic book or graphic novel. Most parents tell me their reasons of why there kid shouldn't read any work that is
a) beneath anyone of intelligence
b) kiddie stuff with no literary merit
c) god, help us, somehow popular
d) full of absolutely zero substance or depth and
e) my personal favorite “LITTLE SUSIE! PUT THAT BOOK DOWN, those books are for kids who can’t read...”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped in a bookstore browsing the comic section (as a high-schooler/early college adult) and have been told by adults that I should be reading other “intelligent literary forms.” My response would (at that time) would go into poetry and old Shakespearean works to show that being a well-rounded reader (or comic lover), doesn’t mean you are an less intelligent than someone who only reads Pulitzer Prize winners.

Furthermore, I’ve had parents complain that their child’s reading list is outdated, that their kid has no interest in reading what’s listed (and while I think classics should be classics, etc) and whether the kid could/couldn't comprehend a piece of great literature is not important---what should be important is letting the kid enjoy (or discover) the enjoyment of reading. In any case, I’ve had an easier time recommending Broxo or Bone Series, Baby Mouse, Big Nate----etc. than Huckleberry Finn, and Heidi.

What does that whole rant have to do with this book? Jeff illustrates clearly, WHY comic books are necessities----why they have wide spread appeal (slice of life, historical, etc) and how they can appeal to a wide range of readers. Mostly, he makes firm points (from arguing with his teachers)or sharing his passion with friends--- of why comic book readers should be ‘allowed’ to read and discuss their works.

Ultimately, I love how he addresses the ego that develops with ‘fame.’ Jimmy learns that from visiting a NYC art museum, that while he thinks this way:


The reality is otherwise. I think grown up Jimmy may be there. ;) Anyway, I’ve always loved Jimmy Growley’s works, and it was great to read his autobiographical piece. I know a few of my colleagues are passionate about how graphic novels are educational, informational, and intellectual, and this book will definitely help fight for the comic cause!

19 reviews1 follower
June 5, 2019
I think that this book was okay. It wasn't the best graphic novel book I have ever read, but I didn't mind reading it. I liked how to told how someone made a comic book inside of a graphic novel.
Profile Image for Nat.
553 reviews3,177 followers
May 26, 2019
An easy and quick read with a heartfelt message at the end on feeling stuck in your hometown and realizing it's just the first stepping stone in your journey. It really struck a chord within me.
Though, the artwork of the boys looking all similar to the main character save for their hair made it a bit difficult to distinguish between them all.

But I love saying the title in Noora's (SKAM) catchphrase: "That is the dumbest thing I've heard."

Make your bookish purchases through my Amazon Affiliate. I’ll make a small commission! The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley:

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This review and more can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for Emily.
1,734 reviews37 followers
June 2, 2015
Jimmy Gownley's Amelia Rules series is one of my very favorites. If I stopped to rank the graphic novels series I've read, it would easily fall in the top 5. It's not dark, grim, or scary; in other words, it's nothing like my other favorites. It's funny, moving and it just rings true.
So when I was searching for more in the series, I found this instead, the author's story of how he got started in comics when he was a teenager, told in comic book form.
Amelia Rules fans will love it. I think it will probably appeal to people who haven't read Amelia Rules too. The artwork is appealing, the humor self-deprecating and honest.
Good stuff and a quick read.
Profile Image for Angie O.
10 reviews
December 10, 2014
This book was funny and it seemed pretty realistic. Since its a comic book, I expected this book to be about superheroes and all that but no, it's realistic fiction and seems real like it could happen to anyone.
Profile Image for Hayley.
37 reviews7 followers
December 11, 2017
Jimmy writes a comic book and ends up getting famous. Now I want to make a comic book to get famous. lol
Profile Image for Alec R.
3 reviews
January 28, 2021
the definition of a great graphic novel, ive read 100 times and ill read it 100 more.
very heartfelt
Profile Image for dreaming_entrelibros.
365 reviews25 followers
May 16, 2021
Nada más saber de su existencia me llamó la atención y me gustó, pero esta historia ha superado todas mis expectativas. Me ha sorprendido muy para bien.

Vamos a conocer a Jimmy, que le encantan las novelas gráficas y quien en su etapa de primaria es un crack en los estudios y en baloncesto, pero en cuanto pilló la varicela y se perdió la final del campeonato, luego tuvo neumonía y al pederse varias semanas de clase, todo cambia de rumbo. Al volver a clase no le va tan bien en los estudios y no sabe que hacer para volver a ser como antes. Pero descubre una tienda de cómics, un paraíso para él, y tendrá una brillante idea, o ¿no tanto? Aunque será su amigo quien le dé la idea de escribir sobre la vida real de ellos.

Aquí viene la cosa, Jimmy reside en un pequeño pueblo, donde es muy bueno en casi todo pero aun así tiene que encontrar que es eso que le hace especial, aunque se viene muy arriba en alguna ocasión.

Es una historia sobre la amistad, en un primer momento, pero también de como un joven de un pequeño pueblo se atreve a convertirse en un artista de novela gráfica. Conoceremos la buena relación que tiene con sus progenitores, su primera relación de amor, pero también su primer “crush” con una amiga (la que no tiene casi ninguna linea en la novela, pero que me ha robado el corazón), a través de un flashback en concreto.

Es la historia del autor, de sus ilusiones y el descubrimiento de quien quiere ser, y de cómo hace de su idea más tonta todo un sueño para él.

Las ilustraciones son chulísimas con unos colores muy apropiados. Una historia que devoras en un par de horas con una sonrisa permanente.

Esta novela nos deja un gran mensaje: “Nunca te rindas hasta que lo consigas
Profile Image for Jamie Liu.
38 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2018
This book “The Dumbest Idea Ever” is wrote by Jimmy Gownley. It is a comic book talking about Jimmy who wrote a comic book when he was in high school. This book used flashback to talk about what happen before Jimmy start writing books. Jimmy’s grade always not good. Write comic book is the idea come from Jimmy’s friend. When Jimmy sell his book to the classmates, he got a girlfriend. But he quit his basketball game, only focus on his work. In the end of the story, Jimmy lost his girlfriend and destroy his work. They start again from the beginning.
8 reviews
September 11, 2019
It was an ok book but I think the plot line was a little bit confusing and hard to track
Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,688 reviews124 followers
January 17, 2015
I went to the smallest elementary school in our district that had about two class sections per grade. I was the fastest runner in my class and when I got to the much larger middle school, I was devastated to find out I was really not the fastest runner in town. The protagonist, Jimmy Gownley, has a similar experience when he's the star of his basketball team in a Catholic school before he comes down with the Chicken Pox and pneumonia, resulting in the team losing the championship and blaming him to some extent. His grades start to slip at that time as well and he struggles with feeling average. He loves comic books and creating them and decides to give his friend, Tony, one that he has made in his spare time. Tony tells him it is not very good and that Jimmy should write about the two of them. Jimmy's response? "That's the Dumbest Idea Ever!"

Jimmy mulls over the suggestion and decides to write a comic in high school. He self-publishes the book and the townspeople living in his small mining town go crazy about it. He's in the news and on television. He gets a cute girlfriend in school. He's feeling special again until he goes on a field trip to the Metropolitan Art museum. He breathes in the Monet's and Van Gogh's of the artist world and realizes that he is not that good of an artist in comparison. But, Jimmy's a positive person. A person who is happy when his basketball team loses because he can see his progress. A person who doesn't give up. He's a hard worker and loves drawing comics so much that he is intrinsically motivated to continue regardless of the obstacles that come his way. And whether or not he is a great artist, he is okay with that.

The author's note at the end explains how he actually self-published a comic at age 20 and mailing a copy to Tony who was battling leukemia. He died shortly after. Gowley explains that his book is about new beginnings. He shows that perseverance and doing what you love in life is reward in itself even if you are only average. Generally speaking, people who stick with something for a long period of time tend to get better and better at it. Tony didn't have such a dumb idea after all.
Profile Image for Jenna.
3,471 reviews39 followers
March 22, 2015

Ever feel like you don't belong or that there's something out there more than just school, teachers, and work work work? Jimmy felt that way, too.

The art might look familiar and that's because it's by the famed author of Amelia Rules: a graphic novel that romps through a childhood rife with super heroes, drama, real life, and friendship. You get to follow Amelia about...growing up bit by bit, frame by frame. And this book tells you how the author Jimmy Gownley got started on that path.

Just as heartwarming as the Amelia series, you get to follow Jimmy on a his journey to becoming a graphic novelist and by the end of it, I was ready to pick up my pencil and finally do some more sketching. But, oops, instead I'm writing this review. Following with him through the highs and lows of this period in his life (he was only 15!) will hopefully be inspiration to all those who love comics and don't think they can do it.

If you don't have a friend to give you what possibly is the dumbest idea ever (AKA to write a comic book about the lives of "regular people"), this book might inspire you to write about silly subjects like real life, school, friends, and finding where you fit in life.
Profile Image for Allison.
740 reviews2 followers
July 29, 2014
The Dumbest Idea Ever might just be the most endearing read ever! I loved this slice-of-life style graphic memoir about the author's journey to discovering his dream of creating comics. The use of color is wonderful- drab and grey when the main character is feeling adrift; bright and bursting when he discovers a whole new world at his first visit to a comic book store.

The setting and characters are all well-defined- I loved the glimpse into small-town, Catholic school life. The book's overall message of not giving up in the face of adversity is strong and uplifting, and the storytelling structure is well crafted. I wanted to cheer... and then maybe tear up a little when I read the author's note.

This book leaves me with a warm feeling. Kids who love Raina Telgemeier's Smile will undoubtedly love this too.
Profile Image for Jeff Raymond.
3,092 reviews180 followers
April 4, 2014
A very fast-paced, very necessary graphic autobiography/memoir from the great Jimmy Gownley, who has done the Amelia Rules books that I've loved for years. The book is his story of how he learned to be a cartoonist while in middle/high school and what influenced him along the way.

I can surely quibble with a few points here and there, but that would be missing the forest for the trees. Providing an example for kids as to how to follow these dreams they might have is important. Gownley is smart in being careful as to paint himself as an actual human as opposed to the infallible good guy, and it makes for an endearing tale as someone to root for.

Overall, great for kids, and fun for adults who enjoy Gownley's work.
Profile Image for Shandra.
789 reviews28 followers
February 9, 2017
A very sweet, biographical graphic novel by the author of the Amelia Rules! graphic novels. Well-written, well-drawn, funny and touching - I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. Look out for the afterward, though - made me tear up a bit! *sniff*
Profile Image for Kim.
709 reviews16 followers
December 19, 2015
Simple and uplifting. Love the author's note at the end!
Profile Image for Mariana.
34 reviews5 followers
August 21, 2017
Is there a second book? Because it was awesome.
6 reviews
March 28, 2018
I thought this book was ok, but i liked how the book was the one the Jimmy was writing in the book.
The main idea of this book was you can make and do anything as long as you put your mind to it even if its a bad idea. In this book the writer Jimmy Gownley wrote about himself writing the book and how he got to writing the book. He started off drawing comics about superheroes and things you would normally think when you read a comic book. His friend later told him he should write a comic about them and how he wrote it and that is what he did and that’s what you would find in this book.
I liked this book and I think he made and achieved what he was trying to in this book. Some strengths of this book is its easy to read in a short amount of time and it is not a hard book to read. I agree with the author's purpose in this book, I think you should try an idea even if you think it’s dumb.
This book left a positive impression on me. I would recommend this book to almost anyone, I would definitely recommend it to my friends because they read close to the same things as me. I would give this book 4 out of 5.
Profile Image for Mavis.
39 reviews2 followers
April 14, 2018
In book is called”The dumbest idea ever”, is by Jimmy Gownley, is a story of a boy called Jimmy, of his life have trouble.
In the beginning, he is a good student, he score is always be first, and he have many friends in the school, but one day, he have a really important disease, so he can’t go to school, but his disease more harder at everyday, so he wonder go backe school, he don’t want be late, he go back school at one day, he saw, they are many school thing he late,and his basketball competition. He is worried about that.
In the middle, he is very sad about the school life, he go to a comic book store, he find want he want, he go drawing, he going to practice drawing, one day, he come backe with the school life, he want drawing the posters of super hero at brander day, one girl notice he, at Ellen is encouraged, so finished his own comic book
In the ending, because of his comic book, he became a famous person,he is very proud, this change of he make his friends very angry, and for the second comic book, he didn’t have any idea of that, at finally, his best friend Tony said, let draw you and us, at this comic book, put what you want said to the person you love, and the person love you.
In this book, I learn, truth them, the friend never will hurt you, don’t be afraid of the world, the trouble you have at now, just let you be better.
Profile Image for Terry Maguire.
489 reviews11 followers
January 27, 2021
The perfect graphic memoir to talk about unexpected outcomes of being stuck at home- great for COVID times. Graphic novelist Jimmy Gownley relates the story of his chicken pox turned pneumonia illnesses as a 13-yr-old that led to him having more time to develop sketches and material while at home that fueled his eventual success while in high school as a graphic novel writer. Gownley experienced many setbacks and self-doubts along the way, but his best friend Tony eventually gave him great advice to simply write about their friendship ("the dumbest idea ever")- that led to one of Gownley's first books. The artwork is beautiful and the way that Gownley describes his uncertainties and struggles will resonate with any reader. Highly recommended.
March 29, 2017
At thirteen, Jimmy was popular, at the top of his class, and the leading scorer on his basketball team. But all that changed when chicken pox forced him to miss the championship game. Then things went from bad to worse when he got pneumonia and missed even more school. Before Jimmy knew it, his grades were sinking and nothing seemed to be going right.

I like everything about this book. There isn’t anything i dislike about it.

Luis will like this book, because this is the kind of book he likes to read. Also, it’s funny.
Profile Image for Meghan C.
15 reviews7 followers
December 4, 2018
This was a great book and I would definitely recommend to anyone that needs to read a graphic novel! I thought at first it was going to be a boring quick read but it turned out to be very inspirational. This book is about a kid named Jimmy who is absolutely obsessed with graphic novels. Is first one is a complete fail but as he keeps creating they get better and better. This book is inspiring because he is a teenager going through school always being the smart one and getting A's but he decided that he wants to live his life instead of waisting it studying for school and always focusing.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
10 reviews1 follower
February 28, 2018
This is a comic, talks about a child which is good at football, drawing but got a low GPA. I read this book is because of a school competition, this is a funny book, I love their emotions. At the end: GPA is important!
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