What do you get when you put a load of young Jeff Kinney fans in the magnificent Blackpool Tower Ballroom with the man himself? A flipping good night actually!
For anyone who hasn’t got children, or has only been dragged into the movie iterations of his work, Jeff Kinney is the cartoonist and author responsible for one of the most popular pre-teen book series in the world: Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
The newly released Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down is the eleventh book in the phenomenally successful children’s collection. In this instalment, the pressure’s really piling up on Greg Heffley. His mom thinks video games are turning his brain to mush, so she wants her son to put down the controller and explore his ‘creative side’. Can he get his mom off his back by making a movie . . . and will he become rich and famous in the process? Or will doubling down on this plan just double Greg’s troubles?
Hosted by Katie Thisleton, presenter of the CBBC Book Club, Kinney launched his worldwide book tour for Double Down in Blackpool Tower Ballroom on Thursday 3 November. Blackpool was to be his only UK stop on his worldwide tour. I took avid fan and wannabe ‘wimpy kid,’ Patrick along to see what it was all about.
Full disclosure here – I really wasn’t looking forward to the evening that much. This was mainly due Patrick’s previous graphic retelling of the “Cheese Touch’ (see below) incident from the first book. It had proven to much for this intrepid reporter/queasy mummy, to take. However, anyone who can get my child to read as avidly as Kinney can is alright by me.
We were greeted by balloon sculptors, photo opportunities, and multiple opportunities to buy the new book. We found our seats, equipped with a Wimpy Kid character bingo sheets and a balloon sculpture of Greg (the ever-harassed protagonist).
And this is where I was pleasantly surprised. Whilst the children sat enthralled by their cartoon-drawing hero, what ensued was actually a really interesting presentation about Kinney’s artistic process, cartoon technique, story design and his involvement in film making. He speaks with such blatant joy and honesty about his art, that I felt just as engaged as the wide eyed younger fans surrounding me. He showed a genuine patience and kindness in his approach to handling questions from the audience, with a manner that was both endearing and utterly natural. Watching Patrick blush to the tips of his ears as he met his hero afterwards and asked him about the weirdest place he’d ever visited, (Latvia) had to be my highlight of the evening.
Whoever had the brilliant idea of bringing the tour to Blackpool, thank you so much. We get some lovely authors coming to the area, but to have someone of Kinney’s fame and prestige – he was named as one of Time magazines most influential people in the world – it’s a beautifully positive thing for the children in our local community, as well as those that were able to travel from as far as London! The evening was beautifully put together and professionally delivered. A truly wonderful event.
And that’s all she wrote – because right now I’m off to steal Patrick’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid box set while he’s asleep. I’ve got some reading to catch up on – although I may miss the bits out about the cheese!
Patrick’s verdict: Absolutely amazingly awesome. 12 out of 10. My favourite part was the sneak peek at the new movie and everyone helping him to design a book cover. He is a really nice guy too.
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