Author: Megan McDonald
Lexile Score: n/a, maybe around 500
Genre: realistic fiction
Maturity level: 2nd grade (I wondered, being one who survived "Naked Lady Class" myself, how I would explain nude figure drawing if asked by a student - Judy walks past such an art class and worries about having to go there)
Pages: 133 Chapters: 13 Average Chapter Length: 10 pages
Theme: College, language, slang, math
Project ideas: Field trip to college! College pen pals
First Line: When Judy Moody got to school on Monday, she had a new teacher. (I put a lot of stock in first lines - probably too much. This one is not exactly on my top ten list.)
Main Character: Judy Moody and her college tutor, Chloe
Review in 25 words or less: Judy Moody is literary candy for third graders, and the book reads a mile-a-minute.
I have had sets of Judy Moody in my classroom for years. I have to confess I haven't more than skimmed them until I recently read Judy Moody Goes to College. I absolutely loved it! Judy is quirky, flawed, daring, emotional and (her words) sick-awesome.
Judy Moody has a substitute teacher because her regular teacher broke a leg or something overseas. (Come to think of it, kudos to Ms. McDonald for making that particular back story more than just a passing thought - who the heck IS this teacher?) Her sub determines that Judy is deficient in math, and recommends tutoring to her parents. This puts Judy in a bad mood until she meets Chloe, her uber-tutor: a college student! Judy learns about math the hip college way and also gets a hands-on experience in college life. Soon she is dressing, eating and TALKING like a real college student - to the envy/disgust of all her peers.
I recently read a discussion online about series books - specifically, how series books are about all you can find at this middle-grade level. A point I hadn't considered was given: series books are perfect for readers at this level. They have only recently mastered reading but are not yet sophisticated enough to explore diverse genres. The comfort of going to a familiar genre - or in this case a familiar character and writing style - is perfect for them. I can imagine a third grader who enjoys one Judy Moody munching her way through every title in the series and still wanting more.
A few thoughts I had while reading JMGTC:
1. The chapters are all some play on the word attitude. Bad-itude, Math-itude, flunk-itude; it is such a fun exercise in the richness of language - perfect discussion material for a book club.
2. Judy adopts Chloe's college slang and uses it throughout the book. Some words are defined, some are not. I think students would have fun with the terms, possibly even incorporating them into their own language. This book continues the popular trend of glossaries in the back of the book. The inclusion of this kind of non-traditional reading, along with the "Who's Who" page at the beginning, add to the enjoyment of the book for younger readers.
3. Judy has a lot of inner monologue, and uses conventions such as Stink (her brother) = NCP (nincompoop). Students would pick up on this no problem, but it would be a good thing to point out in discussion. I had to pay close attention to quotation marks to keep up with her thinking!