Even a Wimpy Kid Can Change the World
Jeff Kinney in conversation with Peter Cenedella
Like many of us, Jeff Kinney had a big idea hit him while he was doing a routine chore. But Kinney actually did something about it—and how. He turned his idea into the 10-million-user-strong interactive web empire, Poptropica. And then there’s the small matter of Kinney’s game-changing Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of best-selling graphic novels that have sold over 50 million copies worldwide, proving that the nerd next to you in class, the geek at a lonely lunchroom table, or just the quiet kid dodging the bullies and the big egos might turn out to be the next world changer.
Illustration from the Wimpy Kid series.
Jeff Kinney on middle school
My feeling, from the limited experience that I’ve had from going to middle schools, is that the scenery has changed a lot. I feel like teachers and parents are much more aware of bullying. I feel the teacher-to-student ratio has improved. I feel like schools are evolved, and it’s not quite as I remember it.
Jeff Kinney on promoting reading
I think that the books are turning kids onto reading in general. I hope that what I’m doing is inspiring a generation of kids to read, and that has its own benefits.
For 10 million kids worldwide, Poptropica is an early exposure
to everything from Greek mythology to world history.
Jeff Kinney on reaching kids
My books are for entertainment, but if anything they give voice to certain issues that kids are facing, some of them serious, most of them comical, and perhaps it will make a kid feel like there are others out there who feel the same way they do.
The Wimpy Kid series, five graphic novels in,
has also spun off a movie and a DIY diary.
Jeff Kinney on growing up
I use puberty as a metaphor for the changes that you’d expect a literary character to make developmentally. Greg is frustrated by the fact that his peers are moving on without him physically, and what he doesn’t really get is that he is a cartoon character, so he’ll have the first day of middle school every year.