Wimpy Kid Fans Flock to Words Bookstore to Meet Author Kinney

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For fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Thursday was a very special day in Maplewood. Not only did young readers have a chance to pick up “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” the ninth book in the hilarious chronicle of middle school weakling Greg Heffley, they also had a chance to meet the man who created it all, New York Times bestselling author Jeff Kinney.

Hundreds of families braved the damp November evening to attend the sold-out event at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood. Though the line snaked around the corner and well up Baker Street, kids agreed it was all worth it for a chance to go on a “Long Haul” of their own.

This was no ordinary book signing, you see. Words closed at 2 p.m. to transform the store into the Heffley family adventure that unfolds in the new book. From “Foulest Footwear” and “Guess the Weight of the Hog” stations to a photo opp with a cut-out of the Heffleys, kids and parents grinned from ear to ear as they made their way from one display to the next. Kinney’s crew, dressed in colorful costumes, snapped photos at each rest stop.

The odyssey culminated in meeting the affable author, who happily signed each of the 800 copies sold for the event.

“We are thrilled that Jeff Kinney is coming to [words] Bookstore in Maplewood,” said co-owner Jonah Zimiles in an email Wednesday. “We hope that the hundreds of children from Maplewood, South Orange, and neighboring communities who are attending our sold-out event will enjoy the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Experience as much as we will!”

They certainly did!

“It was awesome to meet the man who’s behind the voice of the character I’ve been reading about since first grade,” said Sam, 12, of Chatham. Fans Clay Morris, 12, and his sister Louisa, 9, of Maplewood agreed. “It was pretty cool,” said Clay, who has read the entire series and looks forward to cracking his new copy of The Long Haul. Their mom, Alice, was pleased at how organized the event was as she and her children made their way around the store. “It’s like a well-oiled machine,” she said.

On his website, Kinney, 43, explains that he didn’t intend to become a children’s author. Rather, his dream was to work as a newspaper cartoonist, but when he unable to get his comic strips syndicated, he came up with a new plan that incorporated his artistic talents and drew on his childhood experiences to bring his characters to life.

The father of two, who lives in Massachusetts, worked on Diary of a Wimpy Kid for six years before publishing it online on Funbrain.com in daily installments. To date, the online version of beloved book has more than 80 million visits.

At the end of the journey, kids were able to choose a character on a computer and receive a print out describing a fictionalized account of their evening. And, as a souvenir, they can visit this website and enter their ticket number to view their personal photo scrapbooks.

“How does he keep coming up with new ideas?” wondered Ben, 9, of Chatham. “I can’t wait to see what he writes next!”

To pick up a copy of the book, visit Words Bookstore at 179 Maplewood Ave. in Maplewood.

Enjoy our photo gallery, courtesy of Elizabeth Alterman.

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