Judy Moody Declares Independence (Candlewick, illus. by Peter Reynolds) is the sixth book in Megan McDonald's wildly successful Judy Moody series. PW, not wishing to show favoritism, wanted to focus some attention on Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid (Candlewick, April), a book about Judy's younger brother, and asked the author about its inspiration.
PW: What was your incentive for giving Stink his own novel?
Megan McDonald: I remember visiting schools and bookstores in Vancouver several years ago, after the second Judy Moody book was published. At one school, many of the girls came to my presentation dressed up as Judy and many of the boys dressed up like Stink—and had even spiked their hair.
They were the first kids who let me know that they wanted Stink to have his own book. And, in a sense, when I write about Stink I get to write about myself. I have four older sisters, and my childhood has inspired a lot of Judy stories. I tell kids that I'm really Stink since, as the youngest, I was constantly bossed around and had jokes played on me.
PW: Judy is a key player in this new novel, but was it difficult for you to cast her in a supporting role and tone down such a commanding presence?
MM: It was hard not to have Judy overwhelm the book since she is so strong. Here I really wanted to find a way to let Stink shine. So I went back to the first Judy Moody novel and reread the part where Judy tells Stink that an ordinary rock is a moon rock and convinces him to smash it open, which of course ruins his valuable rock. And later when she finds him with his pockets full of quarters, he tells her that he sold the remnants of the rock as moon dust. This is a great example of Stink shining on his own, despite the fact that Judy has done one of her typical get-one-over-on-Stink moves.
I used that incident as inspiration for Stink's voice and personality. The other challenge was making a strong connection to the Judy Moody books while giving Stink's book its own distinctiveness.
PW: Do you envision Stink as the first in a series?
MM: I know for a fact that it is, since I've already written the second. With the Judy Moody books I've been so thrilled that, when I'm in the middle of writing one, the idea for the next one hits me. It's happened every time and it happened with Stink. I often realize that a small thing that I've put in a novel can be expanded or exaggerated.
PW: You have another Judy Moody novel plus three picture books coming out this spring. How did it happen that you have so many books due out in such a short period of time?
MM: Actually, it's just a coincidence, since I don't control what lists the books end up on—here each one just landed where it did. In fact, I finished one of the picture books, Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs!, on theSeptember 11th. It's sort of overwhelming to have all these books appear at once, but it is very exciting, too.
PW: What are you working on now?
MM: I'm just beginning the third Stink novel. I am still in the gathering-ideas stage, creating a premise and figuring out what the story will be. To me that's one of the most fun parts.