With a few lines, Jeff Kinney charted his journey from failed cartoonist to best-selling children’s author for St Mel’s Catholic Primary Campsie students.
The talk was his only school event while in Australia for a three-day book tour. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid author shared jokes and illustration tips with students in years 3 to 6, joined by Campsie Public school students at the Orion Centre on 4 May.
Students got a crash course in illustrating the book’s main character Greg, and attempted the task blindfolded. They laughed when Kinney tricked a St Mel’s student into signing a declaration that ‘everyone would do more homework’.
Kinney has sold more than 200 million copies of the 12 books in the Wimpy Kid series. He shared trivia about the books, which have been published in 56 different languages. The first book translated to Latin was gifted to Pope Francis.
It was entertaining and I loved how he drew the characters in his story for us.
Students from culturally diverse St Mel’s appreciated the global aspect of the series’ success. The school counts about 40 different nationalities among its students.
Mr Kinney said it was inspiring to connect with students from all parts of the world who read his books.
“I live I a little town in Massachusetts and it’s so strange to me that these books get out all over the world, so I love coming to a really faraway place to experience it first hand,” he said.
“It’s fun to draw live. It adds an element of unpredictability.
“I hope that there are some kids [in the audience] that feel inspired to chase after something that they’re interested in. I certainly had a few obstacles along the way and kept at it, so I hope that out of every 100 or 1,000 kids I talk to there’s one or two that might catch that spark.”
Assistant Principal Chad Ferris said the visit was part of the school’s partnership with publisher Penguin Random House.
Along with access to author talks, students have received free books to encourage reading for pleasure.
We make sure the students give feedback that is kind, helpful and specific.
St Mel’s has also gained international attention for its Organic Learning Cycle, which encourages students to problem-solve and give positive feedback to their peers on various learning tasks.
They will further hone these skills when they review the content and cover art for children’s books that Penguin Random House are yet to publish.
“They have offered proof copies of books for our students to read and give quality feedback for the author before they go to print,” Mr Ferris said.
“At our school we promote the pitching of ideas and quality feedback. We make sure the students give feedback that is kind, helpful and specific, and hard on content and soft on people in order to improve ideas and thinking.
“It’s all about the principles of learning and that every learner, regardless of age has the capacity to change the world.”
I hope some kids feel inspired to chase after something that they’re interested in.
Mr Ferris said students were engaged by Kinney’s talk.
“One of the biggest things I will unpack with the students is how his books were his journals brought to life,” he said.
“I think our students will connect to that and hopefully be inspired that they too could do something down the track that would make them change the world to some degree.”
St Mel’s students share their thoughts on Kinney’s talk, books and reading for fun:
Warren: “It’s been a privilege with him coming all the way from America to the Orion Centre to meet Campsie Public and St Mel’s. I have all of his books. He was my favourite author so I was very interested. I didn’t know that he first started he had other books like Igdoof. Roderick Rules is my favourite.”
Alyssa: “I think it was a privilege having him here. I enjoyed how he showed us what he uses to draw everything. People have their own ways [to illustrate]. The way he showed us today is a way we could possibly use in the future. My brother has finished school now, but he used to love Jeff Kinney books so he has the whole collection. He still reads then to this day.”
Kayla: “I thought it was entertaining, it was funny, and I loved how he drew the characters in his story for us.”
John-Paul “I found the talk very interesting because I learnt how he started off and now he’s become this great author that everyone wants to read. It’s very entertaining to see all these different drawing tricks. It was very unexpected to see Igdoof turned into Greg and that from that one comic strip it became 12 different books.
“I’ve had lots of funny things happen to me so if I decided to become an author my books would be quite funny.”