Gr 3–6—The fifth book (Amulet Books, 2010) in Laura Oliver's popular series is just as hilarious and entertaining as its predecessors. Greg Heffly is seeking a replacement for his best friend, Rowley, as he faces the new school year. Trying to select a new best friend is a daunting task. But that's not all. Greg also faces issues relating to bathroom etiquette, acne, his mother returning to school, the family gathering at Grandma's for Uncle Gary's wedding, Advance Health class (sex education), girls, brotherly quandaries, and dealing with friends on Facebook. Ramon de Ocampo does an outstanding job of adding sarcasm and humor to the reading. Have the print version handy so listeners can peruse the cartoon illustrations which enrich the story.—Linda M. Teel, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Jeff Kinney is an online game developer and designer, and a #1 New York Times bestselling author. In 2009, Jeff was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He spent his childhood in the Washington, D.C., area and moved to New England in 1995. Jeff lives in southern Massachusetts with his wife and their two sons.
All his life, Jeff Kinney wanted to be a cartoonist. As a student at the University of Maryland in the 1990s, he published his comic strip "Igdoof" in the college newspaper, but he soon discovered that succeeding in the real world as a syndicated cartoonist is no easy task. So, after school, he supported himself as a newspaper designer and computer programmer, while working out ideas for a children's book that combined cartoons with conventional storytelling.
Once he conceived the concept for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Kinney devoted nearly six years to developing the storyline and artwork. Fashioned as a journal with appealing, expressive stick figure drawings on every page, Diary is narrated in the pitch-perfect (and hilariously deadpan) voice of a not-always-likeable but totally believable tweener named Greg Heffley. Poised to make the painful transition from elementary to middle school, Greg struggles with the usual preteen angst: bullies and cliques, annoying siblings and clueless parents, faithful friends and cute, unattainable girls.
Although Kinney never intended to publish his book online, when the opportunity arose to serialize Greg's adventures on Funbrain.com, he knew he'd found the perfect way to reach his target audience. In 2004, the comic strip began appearing in daily installments on the website. The feature was a huge hit, attracting thousands of hits a day. Moreover, the online version paved the way to Kinney's five-book deal with the publisher Harry N. Abrams.
Armed with fresh, new story lines, Kinney launched the print sequence in 2007. From the very first installment, entitled simply Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the series was a success -- especially with reluctant readers who found the diary-with-doodles format far more accessible than conventional books. Greg, with his hilarious antics, backfiring schemes, and totally unfiltered thoughts (his mom has agreed not to read what he writes!), has struck a responsive chord -- both with kids who identify with his growing pains and with grownups who vividly recall their own.
Good To Know
Jeff Kinney claims that he writes for kids because he believes the most interesting and funniest stories come from people's childhoods.
In an interview with familyeducation.com, Kinney was asked which he liked more: writing or drawing cartoons. He answered this way: " Both writing and drawing are a struggle for me. I am cursed with being a very slow illustrator, and this book requires at least 1,000 illustrations. So sometimes, the joy of illustrating is a bit diminished by the amount of time that illustrating takes. What I enjoy is seeing the words and illustrations come together on the page."
Kinney knew he'd made the grade when Diary of a Wimpy Kid was chosen to appear as a plot point on the popular Disney-produced preteen series Wizards of Waverly Place.
Kinney deliberately avoids putting pop culture references into his stories because he wants them to have a timeless feel. He hopes readers will be able to pick his books up 20 years from now and still be able to relate to themes.