I love Megan McDonald. I gushed about her in my reviews of the first two books in the Stink series and when I reviewed her great stand alone book, The Sister's Club. Peter H Reynolds is a brilliant artist and so perfectly suited to McDonald's writing style. Reynolds is so multi-talented that I feel compelled once again to list all of the creative endeavors that he is involved with. A fabulous children's book author and illustrator in his own right - don't miss The Dot, So Few of Me and the incomprable ish -Peter H Reynolds is also the co-owner of The Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA. The Blue Bunny publishes the semi-annual Hutch: A Kids' Literary and Art Magazine which features stories, poems and art work by kids as well as contributions by Peter H Reynolds and other guest authors and illustrators who provide tips on writing and creating. And, as if this wasn't enough, Peter is the the president and creative director of FableVision Studios where he produces award-winning children’s broadcast programming, educational videos, and multimedia applications.
Megan McDonald has a remarkable way of capturing the emotions and vast imaginations that kid's possess. She also has a real knack for writing scenes set in school. She has created teachers who are understanding and empathetic without being smarmy or condescending. And, these teachers assign some pretty cool projects. In the first book in the series, Judy Moody Was in a Mood. Not a Good Mood. A Bad Mood, which is the full (and greatest ever) title of the book, Judy is in a bad mood because she did not go on vacation anywhere special and return home with a t-shirt reflecting this that she could then wear to school on the first day, thus eliciting the interest of her peers. And, while she does make herself a pretty cool shirt to compete with the crowd, she slumps again when she sees her best friend Rocket's shirt advertising the Loch Ness Monster Roller Coast at Busch Gardens. Judy starts third grade with Mr Todd and a seat next to paste eating Frank. She thinks it is hilarious to call her teacher "Mr Toad," and almost works herself out of a bad mood by doing so on, despite sitting next to Frank. Mr Todd ignores this and delights the class with his approach to spelling. Judy, still stuck in her funk, responds to Mr Todd's request to find five spelling words from the phrase, "GINO'S EXTRA-CHEESE PIZZA" with "no" written five times on her paper. When pressed for more words, Judy writes "gnat," "rat," "tiger," and "spit" then impresses the class when she makes a sentence using all five words. The class is rewarded with pizza for all and Judy's mood begins to brighten. As with the Stink Series and the Sister's Club, McDonald manages to incorporate factual, historical and literary information into the story. Judy's hero is Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the United States to graduate with a medical degree (1849) and practice as a doctor, and Judy like to practice her doctoring skills on Stink and her Hedda-Get-Betta doll. Judy also has an interest in the Rain Forest and, when the pet store cannot supply her with a two toed sloth, she happily settles for a Venus Fly Trap. Little details like these, which her books are cheerfully crammed full of, along with her humorous and endearing characters make Megan McDonald's books essential.
Judy goes on to struggle with a classmate's birthday she does not want to attend, the fact that her little brother and parents get to go on a class field trip to the president's house and the completion of her ME COLLAGE, another cool assignment from Mr Todd, and also one that you can print out on the Judy Moody website - along with tons of other great activities. When Judy is moody she sometimes responds to questions with a "ROAR." She can be secretive, silent and grumpy when she is in a mood. However, none of this is exaggerated and all her actions and motivations have a genuine feel to them. Judy thinks that her classmate Frank eats paste and she tries to ignore him and his birthday party invitation. When she ends up at his party despite her best efforts, she learns that Frank is a collector. Judy, who has collections of doll parts, band-aids and scabs, among other things, is impressed. This and the fact that they both have carnivorous plants as pets improves her mood. Judy's moods seem genuine as well. As the parent of a very moody son, I recognized the brooding, stewing and petulant interactions that Judy is prone to. And, when confronted with a situation that is sure to cause a meltdown, Judy surprises everyone when she recasts and calmly turns the purple patch of Jungle Juice Stink spilled on her ME COLLAGE into a her home state of Virginia. This alone would have been a great ending to a great book, but McDonald goes one further. When Mr and Mrs Moody take Judy, Stink, Frank and Rocket out for celebratory ice cream cones at Screaming Mimi's, the kids learn that Frank has to turn his collage in late because he can't fill out the corner for "clubs" since he does not belong to one. Judy and Rocket tackled this problem when they created the TP Club, so named because Stink's pet toad, Toady, peed in each of their hands when they held him (Toad Pee, get it?) Luckily, Stink has Toady with him and Judy promptly tells Frank, "If you pick up Toady right now, you can be in a club."
There are currently eight Judy Moody books on the shelf, one Judy Moody Journal and one Judy Moody Double-Rare-Way-Not-Boring-Book of Fun Stuff To Do. There is also a Judy Moody and Stink book titled, The Holly Joliday and soon to be published Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt.