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‘Wimpy’ author visits Farmington's Akin Road Elementary

The visit from Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney speaks to Akin Road Elementary School students. Students in Sara Drazkowski’s class won the visit by reading more than 210 minutes each this school year.1 / 2
Students from Sara Drazkowski's fifth grade class won a visit from Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, who came to their classroom, autographed books, answered questions and had a picture taken with students. 2 / 2

Every desk was filled in Sara Drazkowski’s fifth grade class at Akin Road Elementary on May 7. After all, her students were expecting a very important guest that day.

It was an exciting day all over the school, because ARES students got to spend some time with Jeff Kinney, author of the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Kinney came to Farmington after students in Drazkowski’s class read more than 130,000 minutes this school year, as part of a reading incentive program sponsored by Pizza Hut called, “Book It!” More than 20,000 classrooms nationwide participated in the Book It! reading program, but Drazkowski’s class had read the most. Each student had to read 30 books — an average of 210 minutes each — to reach their reading goal.

That’s why they got some one-on-one time with Kinney. As part of their prize, they received a pizza party and Kinney came to visit their classroom and autograph some books.

After Kinney’s time with Drazkowski’s class, the rest of the fifth grade students came in to have a question and answer period with the author.

Kinney encouraged students to never give up on achieving a dream. He told of how he had a comic strip in his college newspaper, and thought he wanted to get it nationally syndicated. No newspapers picked up the comic strip, he said, which caused him to eventually rethink his career path.

Though his main character, Greg Heffley, writes in a journal, Kinney never did the same as a kid. However, as he worked through the rejection of his comic strip, he started to journal. And in his journals, he doodled. And then, he started to see the format for a style of book that incorporated both journaling, and drawing his cartoons.

He likens his characters to himself and those around him.

“The thing about my books is they’re not very special,” he said. “Greg is not … he’s not a vampire, he doesn’t have super powers, and that’s what’s fun writing. Every kid in here has at least 10 Wimpy Kid-type books in them. If you capture the things that are happening to you and around you, you will have a lot of material if you ever want to write.”

Kinney said he was reading the Harry Potter series when he first developed the concept for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. While he admired the talents of J.K. Rowling, Kinney said he felt he could identify with Greg Heffley more than Harry Potter. Harry was popular, rich and athletic.

“I wasn’t those things as a kid, so I couldn’t really relate to Harry Potter, but I can relate to a character like Greg Heffley who has problems or maybe he creates his own problems,” Kinney told students. “The inspiration for Diary of a Wimpy Kid came from who I was as a kid, and maybe who I am as an adult.”

Before leaving Akin Road Elementary, Kinney spoke to the entire student body in an afternoon program.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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