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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 14, 2016

If you aren’t familiar with the name “Jeff Kinney,” then you are over the age of 25 and have no children or grandchildren.


He is the author of the children’s book series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and for the past year, the owner of a Bookstore called “The Unlikely Story” in Plainville, Mass.


His books have sold nearly 70 million copies around the world over the past decade, with a new book published every year since 2007.


Jeff is a software designer and cartoonist, and his original introduction of the character Greg Heffley was in 2005 with an online version on the children’s website 


The story unfolded week-by-week and recorded over 20 million hits, as well as a demand for the whole story in print format.


The story was sold to the ComicArts Division of Abrams Books and the first book in the Series was published and released in 2007.


Actually, the books weren’t a Series when the first couple titles were released, but now every kid in America can tell you which book was the third published.


The main character is Greg Heffley who is trying to adapt to middle school.  His loyal friend is Rowley Jefferson.  Younger brother Manny Heffley and older brother Roderick Heffley round out the characters.


Each book stands on its own for a story, and each new book spent time on the N.Y. Times Best Sellers List.


Number 10, released last November, seems to be permanently placed on the list and is provoking new interest in numbers 1-9 as new readers discovers the Wimpy Kid.


And this is where the Library comes into the story.


Misty Teasdale, Children’s Services Librarian for our system, mentioned to me when the new book emerged that the popularity of Wimpy Kid requires us to purchase more copies of the Series and replace some of the older books.


In checking, I found several of the books in our Mending area, being patched up for more circulations; and the ones on-the-shelf were literally worn out.


Some had been checked out and returned over 100 times, and I couldn’t check most of the titles as they were, as librarians say, “in circulation.”


So, for the first time I can remember, the library system purchased all of the books written by one author for all locations.


Of course, we periodically replace titles of books due to wear, such as Dr. Seuss or Laura Ingalls Wilder, Stephen King --- but never every book the author ever wrote at the same time!


The “Diary of the Wimpy Kid” is different.  It has started many young people into the reading habit; kids who had never read a book before.


The author is a strong supporter of Bookstores and print books for kids.  He thinks that eBooks and eReaders have their place in schools and society to serve as textbooks, but says that it is important to “put a physical book in the hands of a kid.”


He says that the best thing a parent can do is to give kids more books that they are interested in.  Some kids are good readers and some aren’t.


We see this every day in the library, when a well-meaning parent or grandparent tries to suggest a book to a kid, rather than letting the child select the book.


It doesn’t work.  Finding something that interests the child will be a more successful read than something that a parent states, “You will like this book.”


Sometimes it takes a book with an odd title to begin the interest level for a child; such as the Nate books by Lincoln Pierce or the Unicorn books by Dana Simpson.


Soon, reading becomes a habit, rather than a task.


And reading is important for those eBooks and those online databases, and the Internet.  We have not yet figured out a way to plug into a brain and download information directly without processing it by reading.