Sunday, March 29, 2015

Inspiration is a wonderful thing and if one can be inspired by something as easy as reading a book then life is great. Sometimes the people who inspire us or comfort us don’t even realize what an influence they have on us. Then there is life itself that can be full of rejection. How do we have the courage to live on and have the patience to realize that tomorrow is another   day that can bring better things for our lives? It is called hope.

He is known as a failed cartoonist who writes a book for adults and it winds up on the children’s best seller list. He is Jeff Kinney who is on his way with book 10 of his mega-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The 9th book that is in stores now is called The Long Haul. It is like a nightmare family road trip. It could be a comedy show on TV but it is not. It is a fun way to keep kids reading. We all know that any family road trip that lasts for more than 3 hours will end up badly for someone in that car.  The cover image is Greg stuck way back in the Mini-van with a pile of   luggage. Every kid can identify with that image because we have all been there.  

Greg is Greg Heffley who is perpetually stuck in middle school as he put it, “With a bunch of morons.” He is always being embarrassed by his parents and he has two awful brothers. A nasty older one and a tattle –tail toddler. Greg is a very nervous sort of sneaky, fearful, bullied and bullying protagonist. A kid we can all identify with at some point in our lives.  Why have a main character who is not the least bit heroic? The author said that when he was writing Wimpy Kid he was reading Harry Potter who is brave, magical and powerful.  We aren’t any of these things as kids. So he wanted to create a character who is more like him. Yes, we need a good ordinary kid story.

Most of us were average kids who had wimpy moments. Jeff Kinney grew up outside Washington DC dreaming of becoming a cartoonist. He actually created a successful comic strip for the University of Maryland’s campus newspaper but when he tried to land a cartooning   job after graduation, he tried for about 3 years of getting rejected. Finally he got a day job designing on line games.  On the side he started illustrating and designing A Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The first draft wasn’t for kids and was 1,300 pages long. It was meant to be a piece of nostalgia for adults. He worked on that draft for 8 years.

In 2006 at a comic book convention he showed some of his pages to a editor from Abrams Books mostly known for its elegant books on art. The editor loved it and said it was for kids. Jeff never thought of it that way. When The Wimpy Kid was marketed to a younger audience, it took off fast. He made the New York Times Bestseller List and has been on the list for more than 5 years straight. His wife and two kids have no problem with their successful life. He is now the executive producer of 3 films based on the series now. To stay close to his readers he travels all over the country visiting schools.

Some critics hate his simple illustrations and call the content literary junk food. They are not the books you want your kid to end up reading but they are the books you want them to start reading so they want to read for the rest of their life. There are more than 150 million copies of his books in print making this author a very rich man. So, never give up. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe a good one for you. With his wealth he is building a book store, coffee shop, cafĂ© and community meeting room in his adopted town of Plainville, Massachusetts. He will call the book store An Unlikely Story because that is what his own life story has been. 

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