Kathy Jarvis was at a dog obedience class with her shelter dog Audrey when the call from Parade magazine came to her Parkside home.
Checking her cell after class, she saw several messages and called her children to find out what was going on: "Jimmy and Annie were so excited I couldn't even understand what either one of them were saying. They were going crazy."
Their mom had won a 20th Century Fox-Parade national contest for "the red carpet Hollywood premiere" of the movie "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" for her child's school, along with a visit from "Wimpy Kid" creator and author Jeff Kinney and "Wimpy Kid" cast members Zachary Gordon (Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley), Robert Capron (Rowley Jefferson) and Devon Bostick (Rodrick Heffley). Her online entry was chosen at random from 20,000 nationwide.
The catch: "This is the first year my kids are not at the same school," Jarvis said. Annie is a third-grader at Tapestry Charter School; Jimmy just started fifth grade at City Honors after five years at Tapestry. "We had to let them know in 24 hours which school it was going to be. Jimmy was gracious enough to say it should be Tapestry," she said.
And so the 40-foot red carpet for the private premiere of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" will be rolled out at 4:30 p.m. today -- a day before the movie opens in theaters nationwide -- on a walkway at Buffalo's Tapestry Charter High School on Great Arrow Drive.
Tapestry Principal Christina Lesh said her students were so excited when they heard the news "some of them couldn't even speak. It's more than they ever could have imagined for their school."
While the "Wimpy Kid" books' lazy underachiever middle schooler Greg Heffley is not exactly the ideal role model, Lesh notes "the students are just absolutely over the top with these books," which are illustrated with stick-figure cartoons. "They love the story line. They love the characters. The actual font and text and illustrations make it so accessible to students."
Reached by phone in Los Angeles where a friends-and-family screening was held on the Fox lot Monday night, Kinney said today's visit will be his first to Buffalo. "I was excited when Buffalo came up as the winner because I haven't been to Buffalo, but I've heard it's beautiful. I'm sure we'll get a blast of snow, but that's all right."
Kinney, 40, who lives in southern Massachusetts, served as executive producer on the movie and has a role as an extra, as the father of Holly Hills, a girl Greg has a crush on. "I jump up out of my chair in horror when Greg has chocolate on his pants in church," he said, laughing at a scene included in the movie's trailer.
Named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2009, with more than 42 million books in print, Kinney believes children love the books' humor. "Kids appreciate that I'm not trying to write down to them, I'm just trying to entertain them. I like to think the jokes are good. I work hard at making sure that the writing is good."
Jarvis appreciates the books both as a parent -- her two kids have read all the books "multiple times" -- and as the library media specialist at Buffalo's International Preparatory School (formerly Grover Cleveland), where "I can't keep the books on the shelf. It's a great series, especially for boys that are in fourth or fifth grade and reading below grade-level. The Wimpy Kid books just fit the bill."
Today's excitement will include Kinney meeting with kindergartners and first-graders in the morning in the K-8 Tapestry building on North Street, followed by a "cafeteria takeover" with Kinney and cast members at lunchtime. Kinney will meet with some Tapestry high school students in the afternoon, Lesh said.
Tapestry second- and third-graders will join Kinney and the movie cast on the red carpet, and then the school's 230 elementary and middle school pupils and their parents will head in to the high school gym for the private movie premiere advance screening, complete with popcorn.
Devon Bostick, the Toronto native who plays Wimpy Kid's big brother Rodrick, at 19 is seven years older than the co-stars he will be appearing with in Buffalo. In a telephone interview from Los Angeles, he said: "You get to see a whole lot more of Rodrick" in the second movie. "It's not different, it's just more. Now we get to see every sort of emotion inside that he's harboring."
He notes that while Rodrick is a pretty nasty big brother, he personally relates to the wimpy kid experience. "I went to a private school for middle school. It was my first time there. Friends had already formed different cliques; I was the awkward kid."
Bostick took drum lessons to prepare for Rodrick's role as the drummer in a garage band, hilariously named "Loded Diper." He characterized the band's sound as "rock and roll with a twist of metal. It sounds terrible, but it's got to put a smile on your face."
An actor since age 11 in television and movies, Bostick said: "We're all hoping for a third Wimpy Kid movie."
Meanwhile, Kinney said he's working on another Wimpy Kid book but as yet can't reveal the title or the color of the book's cover. "I've definitely got more stories in me," he said.