Jeopardy! is almost as old as I am. I was brought up on quiz shows like Eye Guess and Truth or Consequences. Like Judy Moody, I’ve been a “quizzard” since way back.
Growing up with four sisters, I made up quiz games with them on long car trips. When I had an upcoming test at school, my sisters quizzed me. They made it into a game. We quizzed each other with riddle contests, and laughed our heads off.
Who doesn’t love a quiz? (Not a pop quiz.) It’s a game, it’s fun, it makes you think, it aids memory, and there’s the added electricity of learning something new. “Take that, Salem, Oregon.” Remember when Bart Simpson zaps all the state capitals in a video game? “Wait a minute! This game is educational!”
Over the years, as the author of the Judy Moody books, I’m often asked, “What’s your favorite TV show?” The answer is Jeopardy!, that beloved half-hour of answers and questions. It’s fun to watch, to imagine oneself a contestant, and it’s educational.
The year that Alex Trebek began hosting Jeopardy!, I entered library school at the University of Pittsburgh. I didn’t own a TV, but I often visited my parents. We’d watch Jeopardy!, shouting our what-is questions at the TV. Mom knew Latin and Literature. Dad liked History and Hodgepodge. We cheered when a Before and After category popped up; we groaned at Opera.
When I stepped into my first job as a children’s librarian at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, a formidable, old-school librarian called me over to the card catalog. It was my first day on the job, but I had already been warned. Do not get on her bad side.
She seemed poised to quiz me on the Dewey Decimal system. Instead, she peered over bifocals and asked, “Do you like crossword puzzles?”
“Yes!” I replied enthusiastically. (I’m quite the obsessive crossworder.)
“Do you watch Jeopardy!?”
“Yes! Every chance I get!”
“You’ll do fine here,” she reassured me. “You already possess the qualities of a good librarian.”
I’ve been there for all 74 of Ken Jennings’s matches. I cheered Jeopardy Julia on through 19 games. Even our dog would run to get her leash when the Final Jeopardy music sounded. Time for a walk! Is it any wonder that I had a pie-in-the sky, castle-in-the-air hope? A dream of Judy Moody one day being a clue on Jeopardy!
I’ve been writing Judy Moody books for nearly 20 years now. And across those years, there have been many milestones. The first starred review. The first-ever Beverly Cleary Award. The first time Judy hit the NYT bestseller list. Judy Moody has been on the back of a bus. The top of a cab. The front of a T-shirt. The inside of a vending machine. A billboard in Times Square. No lie!
Judy Moody has been a question in the board game Trivial Pursuit. She has been a clue in the New York Times crossword puzzle. The phone started ringing after Judy Moody references popped up on sitcoms Happy Endings and The Goldbergs. Judy even has a place of honor in my hometown— her own table at Screamin’ Mimi’s ice cream shop.
If Judy Moody were to have one question to pose to her beloved Magic 8 Ball, she might ask: Will I ever appear on Jeopardy!?
Jeopardy! often has a category for Children’s Literature, it’s true. But most of the answers are from classics. Charlotte’s Web. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Seuss and Sendak. Pippi, Pooh, Peter Rabbit, and Paddington.
Signs point to yes. Someday.
Someday came in the middle of a historic run on Jeopardy!. Jeopardy James recently made history for a 32-game winning streak, breaking all sorts of records. James Holzhauer endeared himself to librarians everywhere when he attributed much of his success to hanging out in the children’s section of the library, reading kids’ books.
Then it happened. On an unassuming Wednesday in the middle of Jeopardy James’s run, came the $1,000 clue.
“What is… Judy Moody?”
RARE! as Judy Moody would say, using her favorite expression of awesomeness.
Unfortunately, Jeopardy James did not ring in. If only he’d spent more time in the fiction section of the children’s library.
But here comes the best part. Soon after Judy Moody appeared on Jeopardy!, I left the country for an extended book tour in Australia. On my return, this surprise showed up in my inbox, via my publicist at Candlewick Press.
My heart skipped a beat. Jeopardy James was reading Judy Moody!
James Holzhauer strikes me as a reader, a seeker of knowledge, a person of curiosity and imagination. What a thrill it was for me that he had returned to the library, and sought out Judy Moody.
It’s no accident that my upcoming book is called Judy Moody, Book Quiz Whiz. Judy has many passions and interests, but reading is at the top of her list. She was bound to go cuckoo-crazy for reading, just as I did as a kid. And that was destined to lead to a quiz-bowl type game for her.
In the next adventure, Judy, with the help of Stink and friends, forms a team called The Bookworms. They read madly in preparation for a big Book Quiz Blowout, in which they’re up against the Blood-Sucking Fake-Mustache Defenders. Then comes the bad news: the Fake-Mustache Defenders just happen to have a Harry-Potter-reading fourth grader on their team.
A: Band-Aids, scabs, and pizza tables.
Q: What are things that Judy Moody collects?
A: Stink Moody’s favorite food.
Q: What is silver-dollar pancakes?
A: A person who loves reading and enjoys testing their knowledge.
Q: What is a Book Quiz Whiz?
Coming September 10 to a bookstore, library, Little Free Library, vending machine (or maybe even a Jeopardy! episode) near you.
Megan McDonald is the author of the Judy Moody books, the STINK series, and the Sisters Club trilogy. She is an avid crossworder and lifelong fan of Jeopardy!, which she watches from her home in northern California.