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jeff kinney

The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide are the most distinguished journals in the field of children’s and young adult literature. Talks with Roger is part of Horn Book’s free monthly e-newsletter. Roger Sutton has interviews various well-known authors of Children’s literatures in his “Talks with Roger” column. This time he got the chance to talk to Jeff Kinney, the author of one of the most ever popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.

RS = Roger Sutton
JK = Jeff Kinney

Greg Heffley is back, in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, the eighth in Jeff Kinney’s mega-popular novels about the middle-school antihero. The format, in which hand-printed journal entries on lined-paper pages are expertly punctuated by cartoons, has proven irresistible to ten-year-olds everywhere and of every stripe, a meeting place for eager and reluctant readers alike. While kids must hope that they would demonstrate more grace under pressure than does Greg, his problems—what do you do when your best friend gets interested in girls? How do I fit in when my mom makes me wear a sweater vest?—are their own. Jeff has been very busy this month touring in support of Hard Luck, but I finally managed to catch up with him on the Wimpy Kid bus via phone.

RS: Hi Jeff. You’re out on tour?

JK: Yes, I’m on tour, on a bus.

RS: You have a bus?

JK: It’s a giant lime-green Wimpy Kid bus, with something like eight bunks and eleven televisions. It’s pretty fun.

RS: You’re like a country-western star.

JK: I think this bus was actually used by Willie Nelson.

RS: I saw on Twitter that you were at the Charles Schulz Museum, and I was wondering what your Greg would say about Charlie Brown.

JK: They’re kindred spirits, in a way. All cartoonists owe a debt of gratitude to Charles Schulz.

RS: I find myself doing the same thing with Greg as I do with Charlie Brown, which is you’re reading along, and something happens, and you think, “Oh, God, what a loser.” And then five minutes later something else happens, and you think, “Oh, God, that’s me.” So then you think, “Am I a loser?”

JK: Yes. A lot of protagonists in children’s literature are on the heroic side, and I wanted to create a character that was more like I was.

RS: One of the measures of Wimpy Kid’s success—and there are many—is that its enjoyment by kids is matched by its disapproval from adults. I’m not saying universally, but you do get these people who say, “Oh, it’s too nihilistic. It’s too snarky.”

JK: I always thought that anyone who felt that way wasn’t in on the joke. You don’t want to be too heavy-handed when writing for kids, because they pick up on that. If you moralize they’re going to reject it. So I let my readers make up their own minds about Greg Heffley.

RS: Greg’s actions speak for themselves. Sometimes he’ll do something foolish, but more often than not, things seem to work out for him.

JK: Right. There have been moments in my books when Greg does the wrong thing, even when he knew that he was doing the right thing. There’s a reason there’s a frown on his face on every cover. He’s an unhappy kid, just because of his own actions.

RS: Do you think he’s essentially an unhappy kid?

JK: Yeah, I think he feels put-upon. I never like it when somebody describes him as whiny, because that’s not at all how I feel about him.

RS: My mother would have called him fresh.

JK: That’s a good word. He’s a kid who’s in middle school, and a kid who’s in middle school is, generally speaking, not that happy.

RS: Yes, middle school is miserable. I assume you drew upon your own experiences to create Greg’s persona and situation?

JK: I spent about four years trying to remember exactly what it was like to think like a kid, to rationalize like a kid. I really wanted the character to feel authentic. In a way, how a kid behaves is just the way an adult behaves, but an adult has learned to mask it. Greg is sort of the worst version of myself, or the side of myself that I’m not so proud of.

RS: Who do you think of as the typical Wimpy Kid reader? It does seem to be the kind of series that non-readers enjoy as well as readers.

JK: I would say the average fan that comes to a book signing is eleven years old, fifth grader, maybe 60 percent boys, 40 percent girls. It’s exactly who I’d like to be writing for, so I’m happy about that.
RS: What’s the secret to writing for boys? Everyone’s trying to crack that.

JK: I lucked into the secret to writing for boys, which is that I didn’t write for kids to begin with. I wrote the Wimpy Kid books for adults. I wasn’t thinking of kids as an audience at all. It was my publisher who made that decision. So by not having a kid in mind when I was writing, I didn’t try to impart some sort of lesson. I think I would have written quite differently if I were thinking about the audience.

RS: Did anything have to change when the publisher said, No, Jeff, this is really for kids?

JK: Maybe one or two jokes had to change. And even so, they didn’t have to change much. My sensibilities are really G- or PG-rated.

RS: How do you know when to leave a joke to the picture and when to put it in the text? I think you do that brilliantly.

JK: Thank you. The DNA of these books is in comic strips. In comic strips there’s a setup and then a payoff, and I like it when I can pay the joke off in the image.

RS: Which do you think you are more naturally, a writer or a drawer?

JK: I think I’m more naturally a cartoonist. I don’t consider myself to be a good writer or a good illustrator. But I think I’m a pretty good cartoonist.

RS: How far do you think you can take Wimpy Kid? How many volumes can we expect?

JK: I’m not really sure. I was just having this discussion with my editor. We reached number one on all the bestseller charts for this week—thank you very much—and I think that’s the sixth year in a row. It’s very hard to walk away when you feel that there’s an audience, or you feel like you have something to say. I think I’ll know because the interest will start to wane, but for now it feels pretty good.

RS: Does Greg age at all, or is it this perpetual middle-school time?

JK: He doesn’t age. The best cartoon characters don’t ever age. They stay the same. I made that decision with the fifth book, The Ugly Truth. Greg is frustrated that he can’t seem to get older when his classmates are going through puberty. What he doesn’t know is that he’s a cartoon character. He can’t move on.

RS: Sadist. Do you get suggestions from kids about any particular behavior that he might exhibit or situations he should be in?

JK: Kids are always wondering if Greg will get a girlfriend. I’m not so sure that’s where I want to take the books. In fact, I really strive for sameness between books. I want them to be very even. There’s some innocence lost, in a way, when your beloved characters change.

RS: What kind of recreational reading do you like to do?

JK: I listen to a lot of biographies, some autobiographies. You can always learn from somebody else’s life experience.

RS: One thing you can learn from Greg is empathy.

JK: A lot of parents of kids who are autistic reach out to me and say that the Wimpy Kid books are very important for their kids. I think it’s because they learn a lot about emotions by reading the text and seeing what plays out in the images.

RS: I have one last question, from the young woman who transcribes all my interviews. She said: “Ask him if he’s going to open that bookstore.”

JK: We’re planning on opening a bookstore. Hopefully it will all work out. It’s in a small town that can’t really support it on its own, but that’s our plan.

Have you put your name on the waiting list for the Newest and the 8th Diary of A Wimpy Kid yet? If not, you’d better hurry up!! Click here to reserve your copy.

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WIMPY8TEASER

The newest diary of Greg Heffley – Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 8 will go on sale in the United States in November 2013. Following major marketing and social media promotions in the U.S.,  seven international publishers will launch their respective campaigns around the world. The United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Greece, Japan, Korea, and Norway will release the book in their respective territories just after the U.S. debut.

Books in the core Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney include:

  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2007),
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (2008),
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw (2009),
  4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (2009),
  5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth (2010), and
  6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever (2011).
  7. The Third Wheel,  (2012)

Jeff Kinney has also written and illustrated The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book (2011) and The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary (2011).

Here are some trivia for the series to share with you:

  • On November 13, 2012, book 7 in the series, The Third Wheel, released with a 6.5-million-copy first printing in North America.
  • These books are a fixture on the USA Today bestseller list (the first book in the series has remained in the top 150 for more than 200 weeks) and the Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.
  • The series has remained consistently in the top spots on the New York Times lists since the publication of the first book.
  • More than 85 million Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are in print around the world.
  • The series have been sold in more than 44 territories in 42 languages.
  •  Author Jeff Kinney was named one of Time magazine’s most influential people in the world.
  • Three movies based on the book series have grossed more than $250 million internationally.
  • The book series won Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in 2010, 2011, and 2012 (and is nominated for one in 2013)
  • Jeff Kinney won a Children’s Choice Book Award in 2012.
  • These books have won numerous awards voted on by students and teachers around the globe.
  • The Wimpy Kid Island on poptropica.com, a virtual world for kids, remains one of the most visited on the site.

Kinney’s work has been widely praised for its ability to turn reluctant readers on to books.  If you are struggling on leading your kids into reading, if you hadn’t heard about this series from your kids, if you wanted to know why you couldn’t always find Jeff Heffley in the library, click here to reserve your copy; and stay tune for the newest development of the Wimpy Kid ….

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Greg Heffley is coming back to you in different ways now.

The third movie, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, landed in theaters on August 3.  The movie picks up the story where 2011’s Rodrick Rules left off and incorporates plot elements from the third and fourth titles (The Last Straw and Dog Days) in the book series.  In preparation for the theatrical release of Dog Days , Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products has launched a national retail campaign, carrying a full range of Wimpy Kid products – bookmarks, book lights, and a prank kit (moldy cheese and flies in ice ~~ Yuck!!) in one of the nation-wide chain stores.   This makes it seem like Greg is everywhere around you.

The newest and seventh book, The Third Wheel, is scheduled to be published on November 13, with a first printing of more than 6.5 million copies.  It will be published nearly simultaneously in seven countries in Europe, Australia, and Asia.  If you would like to know whether Greg gets a date for the Valentine’s Day dance, you won’t want to miss this book.

The Wimpy Kid series has sold more than 75 million copies worldwide and is available in more than 41 countries so far. The two previous films based on the books have grossed nearly $150 million globally.  This is how popular Greg has become.

So now you know why you often couldn’t find him in the library.  If you want to meet him, hurry up and reserve your copy here.  Be aware that the waiting list is getting longer and longer now.  After you reserve it, just be patient and wait for your old friend to come back and meet with you.

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If you’re a fan of police procedurals on TV such as the CSI franchises, there’s one that provides a refreshing change of pace.  Here criminals are apprehended and mysteries solved when the lead character uses his skills of deduction, detection and innovation, solid police work without the help of  the high-tech tools  his counterparts enjoy today, at least on TV.

Murdoch Mysteries” is a Canadian TV series that features characters created by novelist Maureen Jennings.  Set in the 1890s, Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) of the Toronto Constabulary applies his scientific knowledge and improvises with available materials to devise gadgets to further crime solving.  Murdoch makes collecting “finger marks” and trace evidence, not commonly done then, routine procedures at his crime scenes.  He sets up a “scrutiny camera” to capture nefarious deeds as they happen, prompting his loyal assistant, eager learner Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), to observe that he would “hate to be a copper of the future, just drinking tea and exuding intestinal vapors.”

Also assisting Murdoch as he untangles his cases is Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy), a female pathologist with progressive ideas of her own.  She and the detective obviously (for the viewer) share feelings for one another,  and their future as a couple is an unresolved subplot in the series so far.  Murdoch’s supervisor, Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), often is impatient with Murdoch’s explanations of some contraption or method of analysis Murdoch is using, but Brackenreid supports Murdoch’s unusual ways and is proud of Murdoch’s successful sleuthing.

The plots suggest events and developments that we know came later in history.  Story lines also show real-life personalities of the period in fictitious situations.  In early episodes, Arthur Conan Doyle visits to observe Murdoch at work, H.G. Wells headlines a conference on eugenics, and Murdoch marvels at Nikola Tesla’s experiments.  Harry Houdini becomes a suspect in one episode.  When he exiles himself to the remote Klondike region, Murdoch befriends a young Jack London.

The Murdoch Mysteries series is not shown in the U.S.  I became acquainted with Detective Murdoch in a serendipitous moment, while browsing through the library’s DVD collection, and started following the exploits of this fascinating character, awaiting my turn on the holds list for the later DVDs.  I enjoy seeing how each episode captures the social attitudes of the time and provides reminders of how things have changed, how much of what we take for granted today in all aspects of daily living was unthinkable or totally unacceptable in the 1890s.  See for yourself; the library has all four seasons of Murdoch Mysteries in DVD format.  I can’t wait for the Season 5 DVD to become available.

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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game  by Michael M. Lewis is another book that has been turned into a movie.  The movie, rated PG-13,  stars Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane and comes out in  theaters beginning September 23rd.  Moneyball follows the Oakland Athletics and General Manager Billy Beane as he builds one of the lowest paid teams in baseball into a success.  His budget constraints and his own personal style have Beane following a new set of rules in order to build a winning team.

You’ll also find other books by Michael M. Lewis at the library including: Liar’s Poker : Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street , The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game , and The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine .  

You can also catch up on your Oakland A’s history by checking out DVDs and books available at the library or just head out to the ballpark.   GO A’s!!

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Tonight is the night …Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II starts playing at midnight. Do you have your tickets? I just purchased mine this morning and am super excited to see the final Harry Potter film. I’m also a little sad that the whole thing is coming to an end. I’ve been a Harry Potter fan for many years now as I’m sure many of you have been too. The first time I saw a youngster at the library carrying around the huge Goblet of Fire book I knew there must be something special about the series and the author J.K. Rowling. As I read the series I delved into the wizarding world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts and was mesmerized! So if you are like me and you have read all the books, seen the movies and are wondering what to do next…wonder no more. Come and check out the Harry Potter Jeopardy game at the Centerville Library next week. The Jeopardy game is for kids but parents will want to watch too. If you are a fan then you’ll want to test your Potter knowledge!

Tuesday July 19     Beginners Level: books 1 – 3 grades 4 and under

Thursday July 21      Expert Level: books 1 – 7 grades 8 and under

Schedule for both days as follows: 2:00-5:00

2:00-2:45  Quiz Contest

No participants are allowed in 15 minutes after quiz starts.

2:45-3:45  Grading
3:45-3:50  Quiz winners announcement

4:00-5:00  Jeopardy!

Only quiz winners will compete in the Jeopardy game   but everyone is welcome to watch. If no contestants can give    the correct answer, the question will be open to the audience.
  

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I recently read the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I have heard a lot fantastic things about this book and have watched it come and go from the library for quite some time now, so I am glad that I finally got around to reading it. The Lightning Thief is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time.

The story is about Percy Jackson, a 12 year old boy from New York. Percy has trouble in school and has been kicked out of several. While on a field trip something strange happens. One of Percy’s teachers turns into a monster and he has to slay her. Strange things continue to happen and Percy finds out that he is different than other kids; in fact his father is a Greek God. At the end of the school year He is sent by his mother to a summer camp for kids who are half-human, half-God. After a dangerous drive to get to the camp he is attacked by a Minotaur (a half-bull, half-human monster). He finally makes it into the camp but has to recover from injuries received fighting the Minotaur. While at camp he learns more about the Greek Gods and trains to be a hero. He also finds out which God his father is. Percy and two friends from camp are sent on an epic journey to recover a lightning bolt stolen from Zeus. I don’t want to give too much away…but if you like hero stories with a wealth of Greek mythology mixed in, this book is for you. There are sequels as well, so make sure to check them out.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

The Lightning Thief

The Sea of Monsters  

The Titan’s Curse

The Battle of the Labyrinth

The Last Olympian

The Heroes of Olympus

The Lost Hero

The Son of Neptune (estimated publishing date October 4, 2011)

If you have already read the Percy Jackson series check out the Kane series and learn about Egyptian mythology.

The Kane Chronicles

The Red Pyramid               

The Throne of Fire

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