This is NOT a Bummer Summer for Megan McDonald. The star of
her Judy Moody series is hitting the big
screen, and McDonald got to write the script. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer will open in theaters
nationwide on June 10 and, for McDonald, it's a dream come true.
We talked with her by phone just after she'd returned from
the L.A. Book Festival and just before she left on a 10-city tour. She'd spent
the last few days with actors Jordana Beatty (Judy Moody) and Parris Mosteller
(Stink). "I started feeling like they really were brother and sister
because they were together all weekend at the L.A. Book Festival," she
How did McDonald get to write the screenplay? The producer,
Sarah Siegel-Magness, had read the Judy Moody books with her then
eight-year-old daughter at the recommendation of her daughter's school
librarian. Siegel-Magness secured the film rights from Candlewick but couldn't
find the right writer. "One day Sarah called me, and said, 'Nobody's
funny. I want you to write the script.' I almost fell out of my chair,"
McDonald recalled. The author asked if she could bring in her longtime friend
from college days, Kathy Waugh, who's worked for PBS on series such as Arthur and The Time Warp Trio.
McDonald wanted to write an original story for the film, but
anchor it in classic Judy Moody elements, "everything from her cat to the
magic 8 ball, to Mr. Todd and her neighborhood," she said. "We wanted
readers to feel they'd come to the theater and recognize all the pieces and
parts of her world, yet give them a brand-new story." The attention to the
set details by the film crew delighted McDonald; fans will recognize Judy's "ME
Collage" and ABC gum collection displayed prominently in her room.
In her Hollywood caper, Judy invents a summer quest for her
friends: who can accrue the most Thrill Points. The only problem is, Rocky's
off to circus camp and Amy Namey's going to Borneo. Plus, Judy's parents are
headed to the Midwest to help her grandparents move. So she's stuck at home
with Frank Pearl and Stink as her fellow Thrill-Seekers. McDonald
introduces a new character, Aunt Opal, played by Heather Graham. (We got to see
an early screening, and her comic timing is exquisite--think more Austin Powers than Drugstore Cowboy or Boogie
Nights). Thrill-seeking moments include an unsettling roller-coaster ride,
a trip to a terrifying horror movie and, best of all, Stink's search for
Bigfoot, including a car chase! But there are also some emotional moments, as
when Frank Pearl accuses Judy of being a "fun sponge," and Judy seeks
out her aunt. McDonald based Aunt Opal on her own "kooky older sister"
who arrived for a visit with suitcases too heavy to be carried upstairs,
brimming with beads, art supplies and, yes, a soldering iron.
After she completed the script, McDonald approached
Candlewick about translating the screenplay into a movie tie-in novel, Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer
(Candlewick, $5.99 paper, 9780763653514, May 24, 2011). In addition, Candlewick
will release a trade hardcover in keeping with the rest of the original books,
with illustrations by longtime series artist Peter H. Reynolds.
"I'm excited for the movie because I know it will bring
kids who haven't read the books to Judy Moody," McDonald said, "but
mostly I want my readers to feel thrilled and happy with Judy in live action as
well."--Jennifer M. Brown
Wednesday, May 25
10-11 a.m.: Megan McDonald will sign the movie tie-in
edition of Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer
Summer at Table 28 in the autographing area.
2-2:15 p.m. At the Midtown Stage, there will be a showing of
the movie trailer and film clips, plus a q&a with Megan McDonald, Jordana
Beatty (Judy Moody) and Parris Mosteller (Stink Moody), followed by a party at
the Candlewick Booth, #2452
Photo: Suzanne Tenner. ©Judy Moody Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Illustration ©2009 by Peter H. Reynolds. Judy Moody is a registered trademark of Candlewick Press.