Edgy Mama: All hail ‘Wimpy Kid’

October 12 was a hugely important day for our family.

It wasn’t an anniversary or a birthday. Nobody got braces or stitches. Oct. 12 was important because it was the release day for Jeff Kinney’s new book, Dog Days, the fourth in his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

My family discovered Kinney’s books several months ago — long after most of the 9-to-12-year-old set — and we’ve become Wimpy Kid addicts. These books are the first young adult books that speak to all four of us — kids and adults alike.

We’re so into Wimpy Kid that we’ve been talking about Oct. 12 like it was the day of the second coming. Both kids were home sick on the release day (strange how that happened), but not so sick that they couldn’t talk me into driving down to Accent on Books to buy a just-out-of-the-box copy of Dog Days. I agreed only after I told the kids we were buying only one copy, and they’d have to read it together and/or share it. Which totally didn’t work. They were fighting over the book before we left the store, and I had to confiscate it until we got home. They managed to read the first 40 or so pages side by side on the sofa (adorable) before the fighting broke out again (not adorable). Ultimately, I let them trade off the book every 15 minutes until bedtime. Then I gave in and bought another copy the next day — both finished the book that afternoon, then started re-reading it. My girl said, “It’s the best Wimpy Kid book ever!” 

E-spouse is so hooked on the books that he had a Wimpy Kid nightmare. He dreamt that the new book had different illustrations than the expressive stick figures drawn by Kinney. “It was horrible,” E-spouse said.

So what’s the appeal of this series? Kinney’s made being a wimp hip. Most kids aren’t wizards or demi-gods. Many of us are nerdy, wimpy kids (or adults), though even in our worst moments, we’re not as self-centered as Kinney’s main character, middle-schooler Greg Heffley. Greg’s the penultimate wimpy kid. Which is part of what makes us love him and laugh at his antics — he’s not a great role model and he’s morally iffy. He always takes the easy way out, but in the most hilarious ways possible — like letting his best friend take the blame for his screw-ups or ruining the school play to get revenge on the girl playing Dorothy. All Greg wants to do is play video games, eat potato chips, and sleep, but life keeps getting in the way.

I caught up with our family’s answer to Elvis, author Jeff Kinney, via e-mail just after Dog Days was released, when the book already had pushed Dan Brown out of first place on Amazon’s Best Seller list:

Edgy Mama: How old are your kids, and do they read your books? How do you think they feel about having Dad write about kid/parent conflicts?
My sons are four and six, so they’re not really ready for my books yet. But they’re very curious. My wife has read my older son the books with some heavy editing. I think my sons think it’s neat that their dad is an author, but they’ve never known me to be anything else, so I think it will be a while before they realize this is unusual. I’m sure they’ll be careful about what they do or say for fear that it might end up in a book.

How do you balance writing, working and parenting? Or do you?
I don’t. I think that anyone who is successful in one venture is probably failing in some other part of their life. That’s true for me. I’m constantly trying to pick what I’m going to fail at next.

What are some of your favorite kid/young adult books?
I loved Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing when I was younger, and A Spell for Chameleon when I was older. I wish there had been more humorous writing when I was younger, because I would have eaten it up!

Buy Dog Days at locally-owned bookstores Accent on Books, Malaprop’s or Spellbound Children’s Bookshop. For more on Kinney and the Wimpy Kid books, visit www.wimpykid.com.

Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.

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