Monadnock Authors: Lita Judge finds success in children’s, young adult books

  • Author and illustrator Lita Judge of Peterborough in her home studio. Staff Photo by Meghan Pierce

  • "Penguin Flies Home," a follow-up to Lita Judge of Peterborough's hit children's book "Flight School," was released in Jan. 2019. Courtesy Photo

  • Author and illustrator Lita Judge of Peterborough in her home studio. Staff Photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • Author and illustrator Lita Judge of Peterborough in her home studio. Staff Photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • "Penguin Flies Home," a follow-up to Lita Judge of Peterborough's hit children's book "Flight School," was released in Jan. 2019. Courtesy Photo

  • Author and illustrator Lita Judge of Peterborough has several projects in the works in her home studio. Staff Photo by Meghan Pierce

  • The home studio of Peterborough author and illustrator Lita Judge. Staff Photo by Meghan Pierce

  • Author and illustrator Lita Judge of Peterborough in her home studio. Staff Photo by Meghan Pierce

  • Author and illustrator Lita Judge of Peterborough in her home studio. Staff Photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • Author and illustrator Lita Judge of Peterborough in her home studio. Staff Photo by Meghan Pierce

  • Author and illustrator Lita Judge of Peterborough in her home studio. Staff Photo by Meghan Pierce—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/8/2019 3:27:54 PM

From breaking literary genres to inspiring a musical, Peterborough author and illustrator Lita Judge has learned not to predict what’s next in her career.

“One of my life philosophies is: never repeat yourself and never tell the same story twice,” Judge said in her home studio recently. “For me, it’s worked really well to create a lot of surprises for myself.”

Her latest book, “Penguin Flies Home” was released last month. And while a sequel to her popular book “Flight School,” Judge says she doesn’t like to chase the success of one project.

“I waited five years to write that story because I had to have an idea that felt right,” Judge said. “I always set out to write the story that feels the most relevant to me at the time.”

But “Flight School” was incredibly popular, she said, and went on to inspire “Flight School the Musical,” which has been running for the past three years.

“I get so many letters from kids from all over the world – that book has been published in many different countries – and that character feels like the readers have given it kind of a life force onto itself. So that story seems really relevant to me because when I talk to the little kids I realize how much that character means to them I wanted to create another story.”

Judge is currently getting a lot of acclaim, nominations and awards for a book she released last year, “Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein,” a book she wrote and illustrated out of a desire to tell a young audience the story of Mary Shelley.

“People have struggled to define the book because it’s not a graphic novel. It’s just a novel in verse, it’s illustrated. It’s kind of its own genre. So some awards are feeling like it doesn’t quite fit the award and some of the awards we’re showing up on more than one award list,” Judge said.

The book is nominated for both the 2019 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the United Kingdom’s oldest and most prestigious children’s book awards.

“That’s like the equivalent to the Caldecott and Newbury award,” she said. “That’s like, it’s a big award and not many people get nominated for both awards.”

“Mary’s Monster” was inspired when she reread Frankenstein about ten years ago.

“The thing that really struck me is, I read Frankenstein when I was a kid and really didn’t give a lot of thought to the author behind it,” Judge said. “When I read the book the second time I was just more aware with how few authors there were in the early 1800s and I think I was more intrigued with the fact it was a female author. So I wanted to know a little bit about her and the first thing I learned was she had been 19 (when she wrote the book) and that sort of shocked me because that book has such a deep, visceral, emotional quality and it has remained relevant for 200 years. And I thought, how did a teenager write that book and why do we dismiss her so much. Why do we know so little about her? We’ve all heard about Jane Austin’s back story, but we’ve heard very little about Mary Shelley.”

Judge said she was startled to find out that what most people know about Shelley is that she wrote the book prompted by a dare from Lord Byron, who challenged a group of gathered poets to write a ghost story.

“That just didn’t add up to me. Nobody writes a novel that remains relevant for 200 years and changes the course of literature based on a dare, particularly a teenager. There’s got to be so much more behind that story. And so I started feeling like that lore was almost construed to explain why a woman wrote that story instead of giving her due credit.”

It became her passion to tell Shelley’s story. In her research, she learned Shelley had been a pregnant, teen runaway, who had faced a lot of abuse from both her parents and her boyfriend, Percy Shelley. She had grown up in the Napoleonic Wars, with corrupt leaders and as a child had lived a block away from a prison where grisly experiments were been conducted on people.

“She was writing her judgment about the ethical dilemmas that that was creating. So this really wasn’t promoted by a dare. It was a brilliant young woman making a pretty radical statement of her time,” Judge said.

Judge, who has a background in geology, also writes and illustrates non-fiction books for children. She is also working on a book that teaches children how to use their creativity to manage anxiety.

“I have five books coming out this year. … This is a more than crazy year,” she said. “I think I’m hitting a groove. … And I have four books coming out after.”

Her husband David Judge, an engineer by trade, is now her business partner, helping her manage her school and speaking tour schedule and running her website. “Once a week we post a video about creativity.”

“We’re just kind of all in and the result is there are a lot of projects,” she said. “I love creating. It’s the most rewarding thing in the world, to create and also getting kids excited about creating.”

Judge is the author and illustrator of 25 fiction and nonfiction books. You can learn more about her work at https://www.litajudge.net.

Meghan Pierce is Digital Editor at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. You can reach her at mpierce@ledgertranscript.com.


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