Who would have thought the adventures and misadventures of an average middle-school boy would be so popular? Definitely not Jeff Kinney, the author of the bestselling “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series (Amulet Books). A writer, cartoonist, game designer, producer, and one of Time magazine’s top 100 most influential people in 2009, Kinney’s name is well known among readers of all ages. It wasn’t always so.
As a criminal justice major in college, Kinney first ventured into cartooning with the Igdoof comic strip published in his campus newspaper. The strip was so successful that he decided to be a cartoonist; but finding cartooning success after college took longer than he expected.
“I plugged away at my Wimpy Kid concept for about eight years before I dared to show it to anyone,” said Kinney. But once Wimpy Kid made its print debut in 2007, the demand only increased. Currently, with more than 85 million books in print and three Wimpy Kid movies, Greg Heffley is probably the most popular, extraordinary, “Wimpy” kid ever.
For those who are unfamiliar with the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” stories, they chronicle the events and thoughts of a perpetually befuddled, preadolescent Greg Heffley. Greg just never seems to fit in no matter how hard he tries. From dealing with his older and younger brothers to making and keeping friends to adapting to the complexities of middle school (and girls), Greg regularly has more misses than hits.
“In a sense, Greg is my alter ego. But he only represents the worst parts of my psyche, and those are exaggerated for comic effect,” says Kinney. “I think Greg is a sort of snapshot of my middle-school self. Hopefully I’ve come a long way since then.”
“I am very grateful to teachers and parents when they put one of my books into a kid’s hands.”
Kinney never intended for the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” ideas to become so popular with younger readers. In fact, he actually began writing the comedic stories for his adult siblings and himself while raising his family and working his “real” job designing and developing online games. He is quite pleased, though, to contribute to building a love of literacy in kids while they are younger. “I feel that if a kid reads one of my books and gets some laughs, the message to them will be clear: Reading is fun.”
In November, the eighth book in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series will be published by Abrams’ Amulet Books. Additionally, products inspired by the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series will be introduced via a partnership between Amulet and Galison/Mudpuppy and Kinney himself. With the line of products, Greg Heffley fans can be equipped with journals, notebooks, and other items to track their own adventures—both awkward and awesome.