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Author Jeff Kinney visits Gulf Middle

By Staff | Apr 18, 2009

Author Jeff Kinney made an appearance at Gulf Middle School on Friday to autograph copies of his New York Times best-selling series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and answer questions from students.
Kinney’s visit was a result of Gulf Middle winning first place out of thousands of other schools in a national contest sponsored by Scholastic Book Fairs. Last year it hosted American Idol finalist Lisa Tucker for the same contest.
In January 2009 Kinney released his third book, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw,” in a series that has been accessed over $70 million times online in the United States. Currently he is working on two new books in the series — one slated to release in October 2009 and the other in 2010.
Each grade level at Gulf Middle had the opportunity to experience an intimate presentation from Kinney in the school’s gymnasium where he explained his path from a college newspaper cartoonist to best-selling author.
He also discussed how he came up with the idea for the book, his writing process and even his favorite food.
“The message I was trying to send is to inspire kids that the path they take may not be a straight line,” said Kinney. “It may be a crooked line, like it was for me, and to never give up.”
Since “The Last Straw” was published earlier this year Kinney has made other appearances in Lee County including the Southwest Florida Reading Festival at Harborside Event Center in March. More recently he hasn’t traveled as much to set aside time for writing, he said.
“I’ve been trying to stay home as much as possible to write,” he said. “I’m working on one right now and it is due very soon.”
Throughout the morning Kinney roused excitement among the middle school students. Because he writes children’s books many of his speaking engagements involve shouting children and their parents. As a result of this intensity he prefers much smaller venues.
“I had a scary event in Long Island where there were 3,000 kids and parents pushing and shoving each other,” he said. “So I prefer something much more low key.”
Members of Gulf Middle’s Student Crew, directed by Media Specialist Kathy Adams, were able to meet Kinney before the assemblies began. The crew earned first place from Scholastic by designing a book fair named “La Readatouille” and modeled after the popular animated film.
For the fair last fall they redesigned the library to resemble a French cafe, painted an Eiffel Tower backdrop and played French music.
On Friday, officials from Scholastic presented Gulf Middle with a check worth $2,000 for earning first place in the national contest and door prizes were handed out including one-on-one photographs with Kinney, an i-Tunes gift card and American Express gift card.
Sixth grade members of the Student Crew, Dominick Cavalier and Gabrielle Grilli, sat through three of Kinney’s presentations.
Cavalier said he enjoyed when Kinney addressed the sixth grade because he was talking to younger children.
“When the sixth grade came in it was more hyped up because he was talking to the little kids,” said Cavalier.
Grilli said she enjoys the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series because it makes her laugh.
“I like how it is with cartoons and comedy,” she said. “A lot of kids can relate and it makes you laugh.”
Humor in the series is also what draws Cavalier to read each of the books.
“One reason I like the book is that isn’t all grown up like Twilight where you have to read through it to know what is going on, it is just funny,” he said.