The Wonderful, Wimpy World of Jeff Kinney
If you are someone who likes funny books, chances are you have read or at least heard of the popular book series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney. The books are about Greg Heffley, an American middle-school student, who shares his experiences with bullies, girls and sibling rivalry through hilarious stories and sketches. You may have also seen the movie that came out last year, and be anxiously waiting for the second one to come out soon.
What you may not know, however, is that Jeff is also the creator of a leading children’s online site called Poptropica.com, which has more than 75 million members, and counting. Kidsfrom around the world visit the site regularly to play games with each other, solve mysteries, read books, watch movies, and explore new places. Recently, Jeff brought together the best of both his worlds by creating a new section on Poptropica called Wimpy Wonderland. Visitors to the island can join all their favorite “Wimpy Kid” characters on a snow day adventure.
How It All Started
Jeff didn’t start off wanting to be an author, or even a game designer. He was born in 1971 and grew up in Maryland, United States, and dreamt of becoming a cartoonist one day. In college, he created a popular comic strip called “Igdoof” about a college freshman,which was published in the campus newspaper.
After college, he tried very hard to get it published in a national newspaper, but wasn’t successful. He then turned to his other hobby and got a job as a game designer at FunBrain.com, an educational site for children. That’s where he created Poptropica in 2007.
The idea for “Wimpy Kid” came to him back in 1998 when he realized that his particular style of journal writing, which was a combination of text and drawings, would make an interesting book. Jeff initially published the Wimpy Kid comic strip on the FunBrain.com site. It took him nine years to turn his idea into a published book, and in 2007 it became an instant hit with children around the world. The character of Greg Heffley is loosely based on his own childhood experiences.
Not So Wimpy After All
Jeff is still surprised by the success of the books because he says his goal was to publish just one book. He never imagined that his simple story would turn into a series that would stay on The New York Times' best-seller list for four consecutive years, and make him one of Time magazine's 100 "Most Influential People" in the world.
So far, 42 million "Wimpy Kid" books have been published worldwide, and translated into 40 languages. While his books are primarily for children, Jeff says he also writes for adults, who remember and laugh at their similar middle-school memories. In spite of being an author and a Web designer, he considers himself first and foremost a cartoonist.
Jeff’s success may have something to do with his work ethic. According to his boss at FunBrain, he does things over and over until he feels they are just right. He spends hours on a single word and days working on one comic strip or an animation!
Today, Jeff is a busy man between writing books, producing the “Wimpy Kid” movies, working on Poptropica, and being dad to two boys, Will, 8, and Grant, 5. In spite of all his success, his children remain his toughest critics. "My 5-year-old makes it clear to me that my books are not his favorites," Jeff says, laughing.