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'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' author headed to Savannah Book Festival

'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' author headed to Savannah Book Festival

by Coastal Mommies... on Thu, 12/20/2012 - 9:24am

By Linda Sickler | Savannah Morning News

Christmas came a week early at four Savannah schools.

On Tuesday, books donated by bestselling author James Patterson were presented to Oglethorpe and Bartlett middle schools and Johnson and Beach high schools, thanks to the Savannah Book Festival.

Go to savannahnow.com/bookfest for a look back at the 2012 Savannah Book Festival and what's coming next year.

Young readers also will get a special valentine Feb. 16 when best-selling author Jeff Kinney makes an appearance at the festival. Author of the wildly popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, Kinney originally had another career in mind.

“I wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist,” Kinney said in a telephone interview Monday. “I couldn’t break into the business because the odds were stacked too heavily against me. I took a different path by trying to get my cartoons into books.”

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is about a wisecracking student named Greg Heffley and his many struggles in middle school. The title comes from the fact that Greg is one of the smaller, weaker, less popular kids.

Kinney first released an online version of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” a website with entries that were made daily until June 2005. Because online readers requested a printed version, the book was published in 2007 and became a smash hit, garnering effusive praise and a series of awards.

Other books in the series include “Rodrick Rules,” “The Last Straw,” “Dog Days,” “The Ugly Truth,” “Cabin Fever” and “The Third Wheel.” Some have been made into movies.

All of the books have been bestsellers, but “The Third Wheel” was the largest selling hardcover book of 2012 with more than 6.5 million copies printed. Currently, there are more than 85 million “Wimpy Kid” books in print in 41 languages and in more than 44 countries.

“I have been surprised,” Kinney admits. “Past the point of publication, I never thought they would be published in 40 languages.

“It’s a five-year ride I’ve been on and I’m not sure when it will end. It’s really been crazy.”

Next year’s book festival is set for Feb. 14-17. “Start Your Morning with Jeff Kinney” will be presented at 10 a.m. Feb. 16 at Trustees Theater and will be sponsored by the Savannah Book Festival and Live Oak Public Libraries. Tickets go on sale Thursday for $5. Call 912-525-5050 or go to www.savannahboxoffice.com.

“What fun to welcome Jeff Kinney to our Presidents Day weekend event,” said Robin Gold, the festival’s executive director, “especially as we add the young adult genre and expand our SBF@School program to encourage young readers.”

Giving to schools

The James Patterson books were presented as part of the SBF@School program. Patterson is the keynote speaker for the 2013 festival, which for the first time is placing an emphasis on the young adult genre, giving it its own theme, “Find Yourself in Books.”

Fifty copies of Patterson’s “The Angel Experiment” were donated to Beach and 50 copies of “The Dangerous Days of Daniel X” were given to Johnson. Fifty copies of “Witch &Wizard” were presented to Oglethorpe and 50 copies of “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” went to Bartlett.

Presenting the books were book festival board members Jenny Long and Don Sturtz. Long is the head of the SBF@Schools program.

“James Patterson has a wonderful program across the country,” she said. “He donates 2,000 books per month to schools.”

At each stop of the morning, students were familiar with Patterson’s books. “One of the young men at Oglethorpe talked about his website and the series of books he’s been writing,” Long said.

“It’s exciting to see kids get excited about reading,” she said. “That’s what Patterson is doing.

“And it isn’t just about young adults; he wants to excite all readers,” Long said. “He has donated 200,000 books to service people.”

Sturtz said the presentation was made to promote reading, the book festival and literacy in Savannah.

“The kids are amazing,” he said. “They are so curious about what we’re doing here. They want to read these books.”

Bartlett Principal Jim Heater said books pave the way for a better life. “Books mean the students can go on a journey wherever the books take them,” he said.

Bartlett media specialist Kelly Shea said Patterson’s series are the most popular books checked out of the media center.

“It’s important for the students to know he cares about them, to feel a connection with him,” Shea said. “This book has been hugely popular. It’s funny, a comedy, which is far different from other books by James Patterson.”

Bartlett houses sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and “The Worst Years of My Life” appeals to all three.

“The two copies we have are never on the shelf,” Shea said. “It’s a real honor to have a whole set donated to us.”

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