Sunday, June 22, 2008

Boston Tea Party: Judy Moody Declares Independence by Megan McDonald

Judy Moody is in an independent mood as she and her vacationing family step off the subway (the world's oldest, as Judy points out) at Boston Common and head for the Freedom Trail. Judy is much taken with the story of Paul Revere's ride, and she and her dad escape by land from her ever-pesky little brother Stink to tour Revere House together.

Reunited with her mom and Stink, the family goes by sea to Boston Harbor to tour the replica of the Beaver, the ship where the Boston Tea Party took place. Visiting the gift shop, Judy makes friends with an English tourist her age, Tori (nicknamed "Tori the Tory" by Stink). Sharing their stories, Judy is amazed to learn that Tori has her own phone and bathroom, drinks tea every day, gets "pounds of allowance," and all the Bonjour, Bunny (read Hello, Kitty) stuff she wants. Tori shares her sugar packet collection and several Britishisms which Judy Moody takes to with American enthusiasm, especially "being in a nark" for Judy's trademark "being in a mood."

Back in school, Judy makes up her missed book report with a biography of Sybil Ludington, Revere's female counterpart. Inspired by Sybil's courage and love of freedom, Judy Moody draws up her own Declaration of Independence from parental oppression, especially Article I: Freedom from hair brushing, and Article II: Freedom from little brothers (as in Stink). When her mom and dad point out that independence implies responsibilities as well as privileges, Judy decides that she will prove herself as strong and dependable as Sybil Ludington and sets about performing her duties without being prompted.

But, after all, Judy is still Judy, and to show off her new revolutionary zeal, she stages a bathtub Boston Tea Party with her buddies Rocky and Frank which involves tossing a super-sized box of teabags into a tub full of hot water. When Stink gets into the act, the spirit of rebellion turns into a steamy, brown mess all over the Moody's bathroom, and Judy's campaign for freedom turns into a Whig washout.

A younger Judy would have gotten into "a mood", but this time she responsibly resists getting "in a nark" over the failure of her revolutionary act. Then the next day, when Stink falls asleep and fails to get off the school bus with Judy at their stop, Judy bikes after the bus as bravely as Sybil Ludington, chasing the school bus all the way across town and rescuing Stink from his nap in the back of the bus. At first Judy's mom refuses to listen to her explanation for their late arrival back at home, but when Stink comes through with the truth, she is welcomed as the heroine of the midday ride of Judy Moody. Her parents recognize her maturity with a raise in allowance, and Judy is well on her way to life, liberty, and the "purse of happiness."

In Judy Moody Declares Independence (Judy Moody), Judy Moody's plea for more independence and responsibility is bound to strike a chord with beginning chapter readers, and its link to Boston's Freedom Trail and the Declaration of Independence makes it a perfect tie-in to the fabulous Fourth. As always, Peter Reynolds' jaunty illustrations, particularly his red, white, and blue cover set against a tea-colored background, capture Judy's energy and exuberant adventures perfectly.

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