All his life, Jeff Kinney wanted to be a cartoonist. As a student at the University of Maryland in the 1990s, he published his comic strip "Igdoof" in the college newspaper, but he soon discovered that succeeding in the real world as a syndicated cartoonist is no easy task. So, after school, he supported himself as a newspaper designer and computer programmer, while working out ideas for a children's book that combined cartoons with conventional storytelling.
Once he conceived the concept for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Kinney devoted nearly six years to developing the storyline and artwork. Fashioned as a journal with appealing, expressive stick figure drawings on every page, Diary is narrated in the pitch-perfect (and hilariously deadpan) voice of a not-always-likeable but totally believable tweener named Greg Haffley. Poised to make the painful transition from elementary to middle school, Gregg struggles with the usual preteen angst: bullies and cliques, annoying siblings and clueless parents, faithful friends and cute, unattainable girls.
Although Kinney never intended to publish his book online, when the opportunity arose to serialize Greg's adventures on Funbrain.com, he knew he'd found the perfect way to reach his target audience. In 2004, the comic strip began appearing in daily installments on the website. The feature was a huge hit, attracting thousands of hits a day. Moreover, the online version paved the way to Kinney's five-book deal with the publisher Harry N. Abrams.
Armed with fresh, new story lines, Kinney launched the print sequence in 2007. From the very first installment, entitled simply Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the series was a success -- especially with reluctant readers who found the diary-with-doodles format far more accessible than conventional books. Gregg, with his hilarious antics, backfiring schemes, and totally unfiltered thoughts (his mom has agreed not to read what he writes!), has struck a responsive chord -- both with kids who identify with his growing pains and with grownups who vividly recall their own.