Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody series has sold millions of copies, captivating early readers with the oddball adventures of a feisty third-grader. In the series’ ninth installment, Judy Moody, Girl Detective, Judy and her little brother, Stink, find themselves in the middle of a mystery: Mr. Chips (a dog) has gone missing! Luckily, Judy is a student of Nancy Drew, and it doesn’t take her long to start looking for clues.
The popular series will reach an even larger audience when Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer—the movie—is released next summer.
McDonald took a few minutes to give us her take on the new book, Judy’s resilience and the upcoming film adaptation.
Was your personality like Judy’s when you were in third grade?
Do I have to admit it? I’m moody! Judy and I are a lot alike—we both have messy hair, can turn anything—a Band-Aid, sock monkey, scabs, ABC gum—into a collection, and yes, I once went to school in my pajamas. I would like to think that Judy and I are both a good friend and a good sister, despite our shortcomings. And . . . our favorite color is purple.
How were you different?
Judy is a bossy BIG sister (based on my four older sisters!) and I’m the youngest, like Stink. I think Judy is much more outspoken and sure of herself than I was at her age. She has a strong voice, and is not afraid to speak up with creative ideas. She is not crushed by disappointment—she picks herself up and keeps going, even though lots of things don’t turn out the way she’d hoped. Judy certainly has her failings, and one of them was spelling. I, on the other hand, was a Spelling Bee champ from way back. Can you spell pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis?
In your opinion, what is Judy’s best quality?
Resilience. Call it lively, spirited, energetic, feisty, or go-getting . . . I set a lot of obstacles in Judy’s way, but she always meets the challenge, and in the end, overcomes them with humor and imagination.
Judy has a lot of opinions on “Rule Number One” of being a good detective. (From “A good detective does not get in a bad mood,” to “Never give up!”) In your opinion, what’s the real Rule Number One of being a good detective?
My own favorite Rule Number One is: NEVER leave home without your S.O.S. lipstick! (For writing a HELP message in red in case you find yourself in danger.)
Rule Number One-est of Them All: TRUST YOUR INNER NANCY DREW!
What’s your favorite Nancy Drew mystery? Why is Judy so drawn to the girl detective?
2010 marks the 80th anniversary of my girlhood favorite—Nancy Drew! Who doesn’t remember Nancy and her blue convertible Roadster, taking on ghosts, villains and jewel thieves of every stripe! The clever, gutsy, independent teenage sleuth has impacted generations of women, from Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Sandra Day O’Connor to Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer. My favorite Nancy Drew book would have to be . . . #21: Secret in the Old Attic. A dead man’s letters, secret clues, an unpublished musical manuscript . . . great stuff!
When I was a girl reading Nancy Drew, she felt so grown up and independent to me. She had all these amazing adventures in faraway settings, AND she knew how to drive—a convertible, no less! I think Judy is drawn to that same spirit of adventure—the idea that there’s a mystery, with a dash of danger, around every corner.
Judy takes her place next to a slew of beloved kid heroines, from Ramona Quimby to Harriet the Spy. Has your writing been inspired at all by other authors or characters?
Katherine Paterson inspired and mentored me at a young age, long before I ever became published. She still inspires me as a person, and as a writer.
As for characters who had an important impact on me—Jo March, Ellen Tebbitts, Harriet the Spy, and of course, Nancy Drew.
Of all the Judy Moody books, is there one that sticks out as your favorite? Why?
If I had to pick one, my favorite would be Judy Moody Saves the World. I love the books that show the big-hearted side of Judy Moody, and who doesn’t think the planet needs a little saving right now?
Young readers have a lot of entertainment options, from smartphones, to the Wii, to over-booked after-school activities. In spite of so many distractions, why are kids excited about Judy Moody?
She’s funny, and makes us laugh. We see ourselves in her. Judy can always be trusted to TRY and do the right thing, but her adventures along the way are hilarious and true, like life. I do worry that reading has to compete so much with technology, sports and other activities, but I believe there’s nothing better than curling up with a good book. Reading feeds the imagination; my hope is that kids will always make room for a good story.
How did you react when you learned that Judy Moody is being turned into a movie? Are there any actors you envision as Judy and Stink?
I’m Joyful-on-top-of-Spaghetti-and-the-World that Judy Moody is being made into a movie—Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer. A feature film will reach countless new Judy Moody readers. I’m kind of hoping that Judy and Stink will be actors we haven’t seen much of yet—so that they really embody and become the characters in the books.
For the movie, you share a screenwriting credit with Kathy Waugh. How is the screenwriting process different from writing a book?
Wildly different. Screenwriting is completely visual—I had to constantly play each scene like a movie in my head. The biggest challenge for me in scripting a movie is that the characters always have to be doing something—in action. I LOVE most of all to write dialogue, and there are rarely more than a few lines of dialogue at a time in the script. It was quite an education for me.
What are you working on now? Can you give us a hint about Judy’s next adventure?
Look for an on-set, behind-the-scenes, Judy Moody Goes to Hollywood kind of diary . . . Her next adventure? The good news is . . . it’s about BAD news. Judy gets tired of all the bad news in the world, and starts her own GOOD NEWS newspaper. The bad news is . . . I can’t tell you any more because it’s a work in progress!