Jeff Kinney, beloved creator, author, and illustrator of the The Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series, was born February 19, 1971. The first installment of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid was published in 2007, and eighteen books later (along with tie in novels, a spin-off series, and four major motion pictures), Wimpy Kid is currently the fourth best-selling book series of all time. Celebrate his birthday by revisiting his books, trying them out for the first time, or learning more about his life. It's time for a Jeff Kinney deep dive!
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a long-running middle-grade series by author Jeff Kinney. Its narrative is told through the likeness of a boy's diary. The font resembles (easy-to-read) handwriting that appears to be written on lined paper. The words are accompanied by "Greg's" simplistic, stick-figure drawings that punctuate the action of what happens in the text, often humorously. Here is one such example: see Sample page from The Long Haul.
The novels are episodic in nature, as in, instead of a few overarching plot lines, each chapter has its own story or sets of anecdotes within it. There sometimes are callbacks within the same book, but overall it's very easy to follow for readers with short memories or limited attention spans. It's still very entertaining if you are a careful reader; it's just that you don't need to be careful to be able to enjoy it.
The "Diary" in question belongs to Greg Heffley, a very normal 12-year-old boy who writes about trying to survive middle school. He has an older and younger brother, both of whom are annoying for different reasons and who Greg sometimes fights with. He also worries about being cool, and tries not to be embarrassed by his earnest (but maybe not bright) best friend Rowley, his well-meaning parents, and his own mistakes and sometimes bad luck.
Watch as Jeff Kinney is interviewed by an adolescent super fan:
Learn other fun facts about Jeff Kinney's life, writing, and career in "Fun Author Facts," and learn more about the publication history of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid in "Wimpy Kid History."
- Fun Author Facts
- Jeff Kinney was born on Feb. 19, 1971. His father was an officer in the Navy and his mother was a stay-at-home mom.
- Unlike Greg, he had an older brother and sister. Like Greg, his older sibling often played pranks on him.
- Kinney got his younger brother when he was three years old. Unlike Greg, Kinney enjoyed spending time with his little brother and played together with forts, funny stories and so forth.
- One of Kinney's early favorite novelists was Judy Blume -- particularly the way she used humor to describe real-life situations.
- He also loved to read comic books. His dad had a drawer full of them, and Uncle Scrooge, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, and The Far Side were his favorites. Jeff Kinney learned storytelling and comedy from these books.
- Jeff Kinney's favorite subject in school was art. While his work was often praised, he had one teacher who gave helpful critiques and strengthened all his abilities even more.
- Kinney's parents bought a family computer in 1985. He discovered a new love and talent -- computer programming. Soon, he began to write his own games on the computer.
- Because Kinney got good grades in high school and his father was in the Air Force, the military paid for him to go to college.
- When he joined the college newspaper, he volunteered to write a cartoon. Even though it was his first cartoon, he found a knack for it, and it became a daily comic strip.
- Kinney realized he wasn't cut out for a future in the military, because he enjoyed making people laugh too much. So he gave up his military scholarship and switched to a different university.
- Fortunately, he was able to bring his cartoon, Igdoof, with him to his new school's newspaper. It was so popular, that nearby schools also published it in their papers.
- Kinney wrote to one of his favorite cartoonists, Lincoln Peirce, for advice. The advice was to not put too much text in speech bubbles. As an extra treat, Peirce put a picture of Igdoof in his weekly Big Nate cartoon.
- By the time Jeff Kinney graduated, he had published over 300 Igdoof cartoons. He compiled these in book form and published it as the Igdoof Bathroom Companion, his very first publication.
- On graduating, Jeff Kinney needed a proper job to earn money. Eventually, he was hired to make games and storylines for an online learning platform called Funbrain. This job, as you'll read in the next section, was what eventually helped Kinney to build his fanbase and, from there, launch Diary Of A Wimpy Kid into the world. The rest was history.
- In 2015, Kinney bought a dilapidated building in his town and converted it to a bookstore called An Unlikely Story. Here, he's able to help, and learn from, other authors by hosting author visits and holding other in-person events, on top of selling books, of course.
- Despite all his success, Jeff Kinney tries to maintain a sense of normalcy in his personal life. He still works with Jess Brallier, his old website contact, to make a virtual world for kids called Poptropica. Whenever he has time off, he spends it happily with his wife and kids.
- Wimpy Kid History
- When Jeff Kinney was in college, he wrote a cartoon called Igdoof for his school's newspaper, which become a daily strip. He was unable to sell it to a major newspaper after graduating, but many of the jokes from Igdoof ended up in the Wimpy Kid series.
- Kinney originally wrote Diary Of A Wimpy Kid with the idea that it would function as a nostalgia piece for adults. The first draft was 1300 pages long. He worked on this original draft for eight years.
- Similarities between Jeff Kinney's and Greg Heffley's lives include: both had dads interested in the Civil War, both had a brother who played drums in a rock band, the personalities of both families are similar (though the Heffleys are very exaggerated versions of the Kinneys), and Greg is mostly based on Jeff Kinney's worst qualities as a child.
- Kinney wanted to give Greg a character foil (or a character who is the opposite of the main character). He invented Rowley, Greg's loyal and kind pal. Kinney did not have his own Rowley while growing up.
- Kinney wrote the first book in his basement office. It was not always fun -- there was a leak and often the room was flooded with either rain or snow.
- Kinney also had a "paying the bills" job, which was to design games on a website called Funbrain. Kinney discussed with his boss the possibility of putting some his his Wimpy Kid bits on the webpage for free and the boss agreed.
- The plan was to post one entry from "Greg's journal" every day. If it built a fanbase, Kinney hoped a publisher would become interested.
- It was a success! Greg's journal entries got millions of clicks a day and Kinney received an enormous amount of fan letters and fan questions.
- In 2006, Jeff Kinney was sent to Comic Con, which originally was very discouraging. There were too many people for him to be allowed in the building on the first day. On the second day, he took his novel draft to multiple publisher tables, but none of them were interested in his project.
- The last publisher Jeff Kinney approached had recently turned a webcomic into a book, which made him hope they might do the same for him. They looked at Kinney's draft and said it was exactly the sort of project they were looking for, and hoped it could be turned into a series.
- The publisher also thought that this project should be written with children as the intended audience, not adults.
- Part of the publisher's reasoning was that many people in the business thought that boys did not like to read, so there was no point creating books for them. The publisher believed boys would read if given something they wanted to read, and this would tap into a whole new market. As it turned out, both boys and girls became big fans of the series.
- There was a lot of work to do. Kinney had originally envisioned his project as the one 1300 page notebook, to be published as a stand-alone. Now, he needed to retool those pages into much shorter, but multiple, books.
- Diary Of A Wimpy Kid was published in 2007. It was not an immediate bestseller; at one event, only Jeff Kinney's family and his editor even showed up.
- It increased in popularity and after a month, it actually ended up on the New York Times bestseller's list.
- The next two books in the series, Rodrick Rules and The Last Straw, were even more popular. The Last Straw even surpassed Twilight on the bestsellers lists, becoming the number one book in the country for that week.
- The plan has been and is to publish a new Wimpy Kid installment every year.
- Hollywood took notice of the series' popularity. They wanted to turn the first novel into a full-length movie. The movie studio didn't want to make an animated movie, however, they wanted real actors. So the search was on to find actors who both embodied the characters and resembled the stick figure drawings.
- The first movie was so successful that two sequels were made.
- A spin-off series from Rowley's perspective was first launched in 2019, with Diary Of An Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal. The series include anecdotes about Rowley's friendship with Greg, and has taken on the style of a fantasy adventure. The spin-off has been so successful that there are now three installments.
- Often, Jeff Kinney is asked if Greg Heffley will ever grow up. He will not. Like all famous cartoon characters, he is not meant to grow up, and the struggles of being in middle school and living in the Heffley household will always be the place a reader will find Greg. He will forever live on as a wimpy kid.
In this first video, a representative from the Indianapolis Public Library asks Jeff Kinney questions about his books, life, and career at large, in a one-on-one interview.
In this second video, a news piece with samples from the books also provides excerpts from a one-on-one interview with Jeff Kinney. It focuses mostly on the books, but also Kinney's overall career.
In "Role Call," read more about the characters of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid. In "Other Wimpy Kid Factoids," learn interesting trivia about this fabulous series.
- Role Call
- Greg Heffley. Greg is the main character of the series, and the author of the titular diaries. He is an ordinary middle school student who navigates a social life of bullies, teachers, nerds, and girls. He is on a continuing quest to look cool. He often has big ideas he'll immediately pursue (e.g. shooting a major motion picture on his family's camcorder, playing an instrument in band so he can go to the band's party, weightlifting, and so on). However, he quickly loses interest. He has a lot of negative qualities associated with immaturity; he is judgmental, deceptive, selfish and short-sighted. One of my favorite elements of Greg-as-protagonist is that he is not aware that any of this is true about himself, and so the developing reader can learn to see the contrast between a character's actions and a character's words. By and large, Greg is a likable character to follow. He's funny, relatable, and as an active character he is always getting into scrapes, which make for entertaining vignettes.
- Rowley Jefferson. Rowley is Greg's best friend and often the target of his (private) derision. Rowley is kind, easy-going, gullible and a bit of a doofus. He is often used as part of Greg's escapades, which sometimes backfire on Rowley, but even more often, backfires on Greg due to Rowley's...lack of focus. He is imaginative and sometimes does stand up for himself to Greg. Rowley is also the protagonist of a 3-novel (and counting) spin-off series told from his unique point of view.
- Rodrick Heffley. Rodrick is Greg's older brother. He is generally rude and plays mean jokes on Greg. He is the drummer for a rock band called Löded Diper. He often wants similar creature comforts as Greg, which puts them at further odds.
- Manny Heffley. Manny is Greg's younger brother, who is from Greg's perspective spoiled and coddled by all their relatives. Manny is a bit of a tattletale and often embarrasses Greg.
- Mom Heffley. AKA Susan Heffley, but named Mom in the narrative. She loves her sons and is often overly involved in their lives, micromanaging projects, trying to regulate screen time, chores and other annoyances, and is always well-intentioned but can often make things worse for Greg.
- Dad Heffley. AKA Frank Heffley. He always wants Greg to be more responsible, be more consistent without wasting so much time, and to try sports. He's frustrated with Susan's desire to fund so many of Greg's casual, fly-away interests, but will always, ultimately, help his son.
- Extended Family and Townspeople. Like any fleshed out fictional world, Wimpy Kid hosts a large cast of rotating characters who appear frequently enough to be memorable and give life to the universe, but who are not guaranteed to be in every book. There's Fregley, Greg's oddball neighbor who he does not want to be friends with. Every neighborhood has a Fregley. Heather and Holly Hills, both of whom are at some point admired by Greg. The Mingo Kids, a collection of wild children who live in the woods, don't attend school, and make certain walking routes fraught with danger. Many well-meaning but nerdy teachers. Many ill-meaning and thuggish bullies. Greg's aunts, who are bad with children and upsetting. His grandparents, who are nice enough but annoying. The family's pig named Pig, who Manny won in a country fair and who later ran away, in the in-between causing many mishaps because a pig is a bad pet for a suburban family.
- And many, many more. You can read the series in any order, but one of the fun rewards for being an attentive reader is getting to revisit these characters who you already met in other books, and see how they've changed.
- The commonality of all the characters is that we see them through Greg's eyes, and they are important only to the extent of how they impact Greg's daily life.
- Other Wimpy Kid Factoids
- Jeff Kinney usually comes up with 350 drawing ideas for each book before he starts writing. (There are drawings on almost every page).
- When Jeff Kinney began receiving fanmail (both from readers, teacher, and library staff), the term "Reluctant Reader" kept being mentioned. He didn't know that term, but soon discovered it meant kids who didn't enjoy reading and had to be made to do it. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid turned many, many reluctant readers into enthusiastic readers. So often, with reluctant readers, it only takes finding the one book that makes reading fun to change their whole viewpoint.
- Some adults were concerned that children identifying with Greg might think it was okay to lie or behave poorly. The general consensus was that Greg's character flaws made the books funny and inviting, and that children could tell the difference between when to copy a character and when to laugh at one.
- In 2009, Jeff Kinney was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people of the year.
- In 2010, an enormous balloon of Greg Heffley was added to the Macey's Thanksgiving Day Parade, cementing Greg as a pop culture icon.
- Kinney often visited the sets where the movie adaptations of his novels were being filmed. He sometimes gave ideas to the producers, but more importantly, he learned so much about filmmaking (which fascinated him). He took this newfound knowledge and penned a non-fiction book about the making of the movie, which gives a lot of insight into the filmmaking process and is available for checkout at the library.
- In preparation for this blog I listened to the audiobooks for several of the installments. The narrator, Ramon De Ocampo, is as perfect for the role as a grown man playing a middle-school student has the ability to be. He's able to maintain the self-seriousness of Greg's perspective while still allowing for that hint of humor to make the events of the stories funny. I was curious how the illustrations would be dealt with in an aural medium; essentially, when there are words in the illustrations, they're read, but otherwise the drawings are unacknowledged. Nothing is taken away from the coherence of the narrative; I could follow it just fine. But it did cost the listener some good laughs.
In the following section, you will find listed the titles for every series, sub-series, and film in the Wimpy Kid universe. By clicking on a title, you will be taken to its entry in the card catalog where you can then place a hold. Items listed include the eighteen original Greg Heffley's journals (including the brand new installment, No Brainer), the spinoff series featuring everyone's favorite friend Rowley, two books with behind-the-scenes insights into the Hollywood adaptations of the books, and also all four major motion pictures.
- All the Books...
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series (2007-present)
Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley's Journal Greg records his sixth grade experiences in a middle school where he and his best friend, Rowley, undersized weaklings amid boys who need to shave twice daily, hope just to survive, but when Rowley grows more popular, Greg must take drastic measures to save their friendship.Image
- Rodrick Rules Greg Heffley tells about his summer vacation and his attempts to steer clear of trouble when he returns to middle school and tries to keep his older brother Rodrick from telling everyone about Greg's most humiliating experience of the summer.
The Last Straw Middle-schooler Greg Heffley nimbly sidesteps his father's attempts to change Greg's wimpy ways until his father threatens to send him to military school.Image
- Dog Days In the latest diary of middle-schooler Greg Heffley, he records his attempts to spend his summer vacation sensibly indoors playing video games and watching television, despite his mother's other ideas.
The Ugly Truth While trying to find a new best friend after feuding with Rowley, middle-school slacker Greg Heffley is warned by older family members that adolescence is a time to act more responsibly and to think seriously about his future.Image
- Cabin Fever Greg struggles to stay on Santa's 'nice' list while snowed in with the rest of the Heffley family in the days leading up to Christmas
The Third Wheel A Valentine's Day dance at Greg's middle school has turned his world upside down until an unexpected twist gives Greg a partner for the dance and leaves his best friend Rowley the odd man out.Image
- Hard Luck Greg Heffley's on a losing streak. His best friend, Rowley Jefferson, has ditched him, and finding new friends in middle school is proving to be a tough task. To change his fortunes, Greg decides to take a leap of faith and turn his decisions over to chance.
The Long Haul The Heffley family road trip starts off full of promise, then quickly takes several wrong turns--with everything from a fender bender to crazed seagulls--but even the worst road trip can turn into an adventure, and this is one the Heffleys will not soon forget.Image
- Old School When his town organizes an electronics-free event, a disgusted Greg Heffley struggles to survive life in a community without modern conveniences where tension is building among kids struggling to enjoy the activities of past generations.
Double Down The pressure's really piling up on Greg Heffley. His mom thinks video games are turning his brain to mush, so she wants her son to put down the controller and explore his creative side. As if that s not scary enough, Halloween's just around the corner and the frights are coming at Greg from every angle.Image
- The Getaway Greg Heffley and his family escape to a tropical island resort for some much-needed rest and relaxation, but sun poisoning, stomach troubles, and venomous creatures all threaten their vacation.
The Meltdown When snow closes Greg Heffley's middle school, he and his best friend, Rowley Jefferson, face a fight for survival as warring gangs turn the neighborhood into a wintry battlefield.Image
- Wrecking Ball When an unexpected inheritance gives Greg Heffley's family a chance to make big changes to their house, they soon discover that renovations may not be worth the effort.
The Deep End On their a cross-country camping trip, Greg Heffley and his family find themselves stranded at an RV park that's not exactly a summertime paradise and when the skies open up and the water starts to rise, the Heffleys wonder if they can save their vacation--or if they're already in too deep.Image
- Big Shot Greg Heffley and sports just don't mix. After a disastrous field day competition at school, Greg decides that when it comes to his athletic career, he has officially retired. But after his mom urges him to give sports one more chance, he reluctantly agrees to sign up for basketball.
Diper Överlöde Tagging along with his brother Rodrick's band, Lèoded Diper, Greg gets more than he bargained for when he gets a backstage pass to the rock 'n' roll lifestyle and wonders if he can help them become the legends they think they are.
- No Brainer When the town threatens to close their crumbling middle school and Greg realizes he'd have to go to a different school than his best friend, he rallies his classmates to save their school before it's shuttered for good.
The Awesome Friendly Kid Series
Diary Of An Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal In his first journal, middle schooler Rowley Jefferson, Greg Heffley's sidekick, records his experiences and misguided decision to write a biography of Greg, who, in his own mind, is destined to become rich and famous.
Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Adventure From the imagination of Rowley Jefferson comes an adventure of epic proportions. Join Roland and his best friend, Garg the Barbarian, as they leave the safety of their village and embark on a quest to save Roland's mom from the White Warlock. Will our heroes survive?
Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Spooky Stories Grab a flashlight, crawl under the covers, and dive into the twisted, unexpectedly hilarious world of Rowley Jefferson's imagination. You'll meet zombies, vampires, ghosts, and much more in these comically terrifying tales. Rowley's spooky stories might leave you laughing, but beware--you could end up sleeping with the lights on!
Nonfiction, Companion Books
The wimpy kid movie diary : the next chapter / by Jeff Kinney. Hit the road with author and illustrator Jeff Kinney and get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the...movie, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. Find out what it takes to film a flock of seagulls invading a minivan. Learn about a robot pig and an animatronic three-year-old. And discover everything that goes into making a feature film. Complete with exclusive set photos, storyboards, and original cartoons by Jeff Kinney...
The wimpy kid movie diary : how Greg Heffley went Hollywood / by Jeff Kinney. If you've ever wondered how a movie gets made, you're not alone. Author and illustrator Jeff Kinney didn't know either, but when his bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series was turned into a live-action movie by 20th Century Fox, he learned how books get adapted for the screen in not one but three major motion pictures. Complete with photographs, script pages, storyboard sketches, costume designs, and original art by Jeff Kinney, The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary-now updated to include the new movie Diary of a Wimpy: Dog Days-is the perfect companion to the bestselling series.
- All the Movies...
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid (2010) The hysterically funny, best-selling book comes to life in this smash-hit family comedy! Greg Heffley is headed for big things, but first he has to survive the scariest, most humiliating experience of any kid's life, middle school! That won't be easy, considering he's surrounded by hairy-freckled morons, wedgie-loving bullies and a moldy slice of cheese with nuclear cooties!Image
Rodrick Rules (2011) Back in middle school after summer vacation, Greg Heffley and his older brother Rodrick must deal with their parents' misguided attempts to have them bond.Image
Dog Days (2012) When Greg Heffley's dad threatens to send him to military school if he doesn't stay out of trouble, Greg finds all-new ways to land himself in the doghouse! For starters, Greg's in over his head when he pretends to work at the swanky country club where Rowley's family has a membership. Things don't go much better on a father-son camping trip with the Wilderness Explorers, and then there's the Heffley's new dog, Sweetie, who fetches even more trouble for Greg.Image
The Long Haul (2017) A Heffley family road trip to attend Meemaw's 90th birthday party goes hilariously off course thanks to Greg's newest scheme to get to a video gaming convention. This family's cross-country adventure turns into an experience the Heffleys will never forget.
Who Is Jeff Kinney? by Patrick Kinney, who happens to be Jeff Kinney's brother. Part of the "Who Is" biography series, this biography provides an overview of Kinney's professional career and successes, as well as his goofball childhood.
Jeff Kinney by Christina Leaf. This biography provides an introduction to Jeff Kinney through full-color photographs and simple text. Is part of the Blast!Off Readers: Children's Storytellers series, which present an introduction to the life and career of various children's authors.
Lincoln Peirce: like Kinney, Peirce writes a long-running blockbuster series that guarantees laugh-getters from children and tweens. He also uses visual storytelling to depict the ups and downs in the life of an average boy. His most famous book series is Big Nate.
Rachel Renee Russell: Middle-grade readers looking for funny, angst-filled diary fiction will welcome Max Crumbly and Nikki Maxwell alongside Greg Heffley. Russell is also humorous, sometimes writes in the guise of a diary entry, and often utilizes doodles, drawings and comic strips. Russell's most popular series are Dork Diaries and The Misadventures of Max Crumbly.
Gordon Korman: This author also writes believable, fast-paced books in which characters (usually middle school-aged guys) are facing ups and downs with either family or school issues. Both Kinney and Korman will provide plenty of humor. Gordon Korman has written many series and stand-alone novels. Some of his most popular series include Macdonald Hall, Masterminds, and On The Run.
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