|Embracing the Child interview with Megan McDonald
Ten Fascinating Facts About Megan McDonald
Megan McDonald is a member of an extremely elite and prestigious group of children's book authors whose book sales have climbed into the millions. Her Judy Moody series, the middle grade blockbuster, is a hit among parents, educators and especially kids. With a book for every young reader, her body of work is vast and varied - ranging from sweet and charming picture books to gripping novels for young adults. In the first half of 2005, Ms. McDonald will debut five new books available from Candlewick Press, Greenwillow, and Simon & Schuster. With three picture books, a new Judy Moody title and a spin-off series, these new additions bring McDonald's total to 30 books for children and establishes this prolific and talented writer as a major force in children's literature.
A librarian by schooling and a champion of children's literacy, Megan McDonald has dedicated herself to creating literature for children that is fun, meaningful and will encourage a child's love of reading whether he is 4 or 14 or even 42. "Although I have worked as a park ranger, bookseller, museum guide, teacher, 'living history' interpreter and storyteller, I have always worked in libraries since the age of fifteen. Connecting children with books has always been the heart of my life's work," says Megan.
Hot off the press, Ant and Honeybee: What a Pair! (February 2005, Candlewick Press, Ages 5-8) kicked off McDonald's prolific year with a winsome pair of insect buddies who try to come up with original outfits for Cricket's costume party. They quickly realize that creativity can sometimes come with its own set of problems. Publishers Weekly praises McDonald as being "a big believer in the power of spunk and the importance of making lemonade out of lemons." In Ant and Honeybee, the two plucky friends follow this mantra as they try-and-try-again. The inside of the book jacket includes recipes and game ideas for a bug-themed party of one's own.
Keeping with the bug theme, Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs! (April 2005, Greenwillow, Ages 4-8) introduces a bit of solid history with her character, Beetle, a spunky little girl who dreams of being an explorer like Marco Polo or a pioneer like Amelia Earhart. She dreams of being brave and daring, and she will begin by… eating an ant. It's double dare on the school playground, but will Beetle be able to face her dreams? Face to face -- or Beetle to ant -- will she be able to
If she does, what will the ant taste like? If she does, will the ant be crunchy or squishy? And if she can't, does that mean she's a chicken?
By popular demand, Judy Moody's brother, Stink, gets his chance to star in a brand- spanking-new series of his own! Stink!: The Incredible Shrinking Kid (April 2005, Candlewick, Ages 5-8) delivers Stink's first solo adventure which showcases his own special style. Enhanced by a series of comic strips drawn by Stink himself, these funny homespun sagas (i.e. "Shrink Monster;" "Newt in Shining Armor") reflect the familiar voice of a kid who imagines he has super powers to deal with the travails of everyday life -- including the occasional teasing of a bossy big sister. Targeted for readers 5-8, there are four additional Stink books "in the works."
Not only does Megan McDonald have a talent for creating unforgettably strong characters with real-yet-wonderfully-quirky voices, she also has the ability to weave historical and scientific facts into her writing. She does this because SHE loves interesting people and fascinating science and thinks this type of information is COOL. No better example of this is Saving the Liberty Bell (June 2005, Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, Ages 4-8)), where the author retells the fantastic-but-true story of how eleven year old John Jacob Mickley, his father and a group of clever Pennsylvanians hid the Liberty Bell from the British before they could seize it and melt it for make more weapons.
With more than 3.75 million Judy Moody books sold, the next installment in the series will bring millions of young fans clamoring to their local libraries and bookstores to read the next installment. Judy Moody Declares Independence (June 2005, Candlewick Press, Ages 6-10) has our favorite, famous third grader visiting Boston and developing an interest in Revolutionary heroes and heroines. Her own quest for more independence and a real-life crisis involving her brother, Stink, will give her a chance to show her courageous, quick thinking.
TEN FASCINATING FACTS WE BET YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT MEGAN MCDONALD
Judy Moody Paperbacks - 2010
Some tall tales are actually true. This is a grand one, told with rightful pride by a boy who was there in the city of Philadelphia in 1777 and was lucky enough to play a role in the American Revolution.
John Jacob Mickley, eleven years old, and his father were in the city when the Great Bell began ringing Brong! Brong! BRONG! from atop the State House to warn the citizens: "Redcoats! The Redcoats are coming!"
And come the British did -- with their muskets and their cannons and their will to keep the colonies for their king. Looting they came and stealing any metal they could get their hands on to melt down for the making of more weapons. And the prize above all? The Great Bell itself -- metal for many a cannon!
But the clever Pensylvanians (yes, the word was spelled like that then) had other plans for keeping the Bell safe from the British.
Megan McDonald has aptly caught John Jacob's excited retelling of the story, and Marsha Gray Carrington has relished every wild and wooly moment of it in her pictures -- both funny and carefully researched.
--Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books (June 1, 2005)
Chapterbooks by Megan McDonald
Judy Moody Series Box Set - Includes first three books in series: Judy Moody, Judy Moody Gets Famous, and Judy Moody Saves the World.
The Judy Moody Totally Awesome Collection [Judy Moody, Judy Moody Gets Famous!, Judy Moody Saves The World!, Judy Moody Predicts The Future, Judy Moody, M.D.: The Doctor Is In!, Judy Moody Declares Independence]
Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid [Judy Moody's pesky brother gets book of his own.]
Judy Moody Goes to College (2008)
More books by Megan McDonald:
THE BRIDGE TO NOWHERE - 1993 Young Adult
THE POTATO MAN - 1991 Ages 4-8
INSECTS ARE MY LIFE - 1995 Ages 4-8
|Embracing the Child interview with Megan McDonald
You've published so many wonderful children's books, with 5 new books out in Spring 2005. Where do the ideas for your stories and characters come from?
McDonald: The stories behind the Judy Moody books came from my own childhood experiences growing up the youngest of five sisters, and many of the stories are true - like the trick Judy plays on Stink with the fake hand in the toilet, and, yes, the Toad Pee Club. It's my hope that these stories inspire kids to think, write, and tell about their own life experiences, to find their own stories.
A story can really come from anywhere. A few years ago, I came across a shop that sells lollipops and candy with real bugs in it, and was later invited to Bug Day at a local museum, where I learned about people from cultures all over the world who actually eat insects for protein. I thought it would be so much fun (not to mention the gross factor!) to write about a girl who's very brave, and tries eating a bug (first practicing on potato chips and raisins, then working up courage to eat something disgusting!) The character of Beetle was born and became the book Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs.
Stink!: The Incredible Shrinking Kid came about because the fans of Judy Moody love Judy's younger brother Stink so much, they asked for him to star in his own book. Of course, I'm really Stink because I'm the youngest.
When I was young, my mom made us pilgrim costumes, and every year one got passed down to me. I was a pilgrim for Halloween one too many times.
In Ant and Honey Bee: What a Pair! two characters decide they're tired of dressing up as pilgrims for their friend's costume party. They decide to break free of the doldrums and make their own costumes, and they dress up as a washer and a dryer!
ETC: You've been a champion for children's literacy throughout your career. How do you think your books encourage children to read?
McDonald: Before I was a writer, I was a reader. My life's work has been about connecting children and books, formerly as a bookseller, storyteller and children's librarian, and now as a writer. I try to find voice through my characters, and hope that kids will recognize themselves when they pick up one of my books. I'm thrilled that Judy Moody and Stink have inspired many a reluctant reader to start turning pages, and to love reading! Like Anne LaMott's "bird by bird" analogy, it gives me hope to think of changing the world "reader by reader."
ETC: Your stories encompass a lot of real historical information and scientific facts. Why do you think it's important to weave real facts into your stories, and how do you research them?
McDonald: I've always loved history and science. One of my most favorite books as a child was a biography of Virginia Dare. And, as evidenced in Judy Moody, I'm a scab collector from way back! In this information age, there is a seemingly unlimited abundance of amazing and inspiring facts and true-life accounts and stories, waiting to be shared. With my writing eye and storyteller's heart, I'm often drawn and compelled by things I read in the newspaper, online, and in magazines or books, as well as things I hear (or overhear) from the grocery store line to the doctor's office waiting room.
The true story behind Saving the Liberty Bell fascinates me, and when I first learned of it, I couldn't believe that this little-known part of history concerning an important American symbol is not taught as part of the elementary school curriculum.
I set out to tell an historical story in a way that was fun and entertaining, not dry and boring. To my surprise, there really was an 11 year old boy named John Jacob Mickley who rode on the wagon to save the Liberty bell -- so he became the perfect narrator/storyteller for the true story about sneaking into Philadelphia under cover of dark, hiding the bell in a farmer's wagon, and spiriting it away to safety.
Saving the Liberty Bell required a lot of research to piece the facts together and get them straight. Primary sources are especially valuable, and experts in the field are wonderful sources of debated material. I visited Philadelphia and Allentown in person, and I actually stood in the basement of the old church on the spot where the bell was hidden! Any time a researcher can experience something first hand makes it come alive that much more.
To research Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs, I did a lot of reading about cultures all over the world who eat insects, and the many fascinating ways they are prepared and cooked. But nothing could compare to the personal experience of eating a bug myself- so I worked up my courage and sampled a roasted mealworm and a toasted cricket. Crickets are yucky because their legs get caught in your teeth! Mealworms are yummy, they taste like corn chips.
ETC: What else is in the works for you? Will we be hearing more from Judy Moody and Stink?
McDonald: I'm excited about a new book coming this fall, called When the Library Lights Go Out, illustrated by San Francisco artist Katherine Tillotson.
Imagine a trio of puppets who come out of their box after dark. When the librarian turns out the lights and goes home, the adventure begins.
I also have a novel I've been working on for years… and of course, Judy and Stink are continually giving me ideas. Next up for Stink is Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker. And look for Judy to go around the world, in eight (and a half) days!
More about Megan McDonald
Megan McDonald grew up in Pittsburgh, the youngest of five girls. She attended Oberlin College and the Center for study of Children's Literature in Boston, graduating with a BA in Children's Literature. Later, she received her MLS from the University of Pittsburgh. Before Megan became a writer, she worked in museums, libraries and bookstores. She has also made a living as a storyteller and a park ranger. Megan now lives with her husband in Sebastopol, California.