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Jeff Kinney: Biography, Facts & Books

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

You've probably heard of the hit book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but how much do you know about its author? In this lesson, you will learn about Jeff Kinney and how he got started writing his bestselling series.

Growing Up

Jeff Kinney was born in 1971 in Fort Washington, Maryland. Kinney spent his early years in and around the Washington, D.C., area. As a kid, he loved to read and enjoyed books from popular writers like J.R.R. Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Judy Blume (author of classics like Freckle Juice and Superfudge).

After graduating from Bishop McNamara High School, Kinney went to the University of Maryland. During college, he created a cartoon named Igdoof for the college newspaper. The cartoon was so popular on campus that Kinney decided he wanted to be a professional cartoonist. His goal was to have Igdoof syndicated, or published by multiple newspapers around the country at the same time like Peanuts or Marmaduke. How cool would it be to write a cartoon that people all over the country would see?

Writing Career

To pursue his dream of being a cartoonist, Kinney left Maryland and made his way to Massachusetts in 1995. After a few years, he realized that his dream of becoming a cartoonist wasn't going to happen. Luckily for Kinney, he had a brilliant idea in his back pocket. For about six years, Kinney worked on his first book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Instead of being published, however, the story was serialized, or released in pieces, on a website called Funbrain.com. It was (and continues to be) a huge hit--the online serialized version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid has more than 80 million visits and tens of thousands of kids read it each day.

Seeing Kinney's potential as a writer, a publishing company offered him a contract to publish his first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book plus an entire series. To date, Kinney has published 12 books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series:

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2007)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (2008)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw (2009)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (2009)
  • Wimpy Kid Movie Diary (2010)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Ugly Truth (2010)
  • Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book (2011)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever (2011)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel (2012)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (2013)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (2014)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School (2015)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

So why are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books so popular? Well, for starters, they tell the familiar story of Greg Heffley. Greg is like most middle school students: his family drives him nuts, he loves to play video games, and he has to deal with bullies at school. Kinney's characters experience the trials and tribulations of growing up, but they approach the challenges of preteen life from a comical angle. His books also feature illustrations drawn by Kinney that make the stories that much more interesting.

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