As well as being the international bestselling author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney is also an online developer and designer. He is the creator of the children’s virtual world, Poptropica. Jeff has been named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people in the world. We know that you’ll be influenced by his five family favorites!
Thanks to my parents, I grew up in a house full of books. My mother was an early-childhood educator and my father was a lifelong comics collector, so you could find everything from Dr. Seuss to the Classics Illustrated in the packed bookshelves of my youth. Add to that a dash of coming-of-age stories by Judy Blume (courtesy of my older sister) and I do believe we had everything covered.
Most of my reading was, shamefully, of the bathroom variety. My choices were usually based on what looked appealing on my mad grab-and-dash to the bathroom, so the promise of a good cover usually sealed the deal. Over time, the books moved from the shelves to the kids’ bathroom, and I kept my own personal library in there. I’m half-surprised I didn’t develop a card catalog for my private collection.
What always appealed to me was vivid storytelling and humor. Brevity was also important, as a reading session longer than twenty minutes could make your legs fall asleep and add unnecessary danger to the experience. My favorite books warranted repeated readings, and certain stories made an indelible impression on me. Naturally, these were the books that bubbled back up when I became a parent. Of course, reading is now done in the dignity of the bedroom rather than in the water closet, but if the pile of comics in my kids’ bathroom is any indication, I have a feeling the cycle is about to start anew.
By Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat and its like might be the more obvious choice here, but the stories that make up this Seuss collection have a dark magic to them. Most of the tales in this four-story set are spooky if not downright scary, and have an air of danger that’s especially appealing to a young kid just learning to read. The Sneetches in particular is a parable with a punch.
Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Random House | August 12, 1961 | ISBN-13: 978-0394800899
By Judy Blume
Perfect in its length and emotional content, Freckle Juice is the tale of Andrew Marcus, a kid whose burning desire is to be covered in orange blotches (this was before iPads and other diversions). The tale of yearning and treachery is one that stands up today. There’s a lesson in there as well, but it’s so well-crafted that a kid might almost miss it.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Yearling | July 15, 1978 | ISBN-13: 978-0440428138
By Carl Barks
… or any of the globetrotting tales written and illustrated by genius/master storyteller Carl Barks. My whole frame of reference for geography, mythology, and history comes from these comics. Publisher Fantagraphics is doing a great service by repackaging these masterpieced for a new generation. I’ve handed them to my sons, who have devoured them. I’m not telling them that the stories were written in the 1950s and 60s.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Fantagraphics | December 5, 2011 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-1606994740
A classic tale of a small hero in a big world, this was the book that broke things open for me. Like Bilbo Baggins, when I read this book in the fifth grade I was swept up in an adventure and realized the world was much bigger… and exciting… than I could’ve imagined.
Ages 12 and up | Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | September 18, 2012 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0547928227
And to round things out, a modern tale that brings all of the above together in one nifty package:
I’ve been waiting for my older son, who is now ten, to be ready for this one. A story that has the best of Judy Blume realistic coming-of-age stories, plus the promise of magic. It’s been a joy reading to my son each night and seeing his mind whirling with each new revelation.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Yearling | December 28, 2010 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0375850868
Find out more about Jeff Kinney, visit: wimpykid.com
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, Book 8, Available Now!