24 May 2019

Author Spotlight: Judy Blume



This blog, if you've been following along, pays homage to my adult love of Judy Blume, but what it doesn't show is that I've been a Blume fan my whole life. I grew up giggling through the 'Fudge series', I did the "we must, we must, we must increase our bust" chant from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, and I dreamed of a glittery sleepover room like Rachel Robinson's. As far as I'm concerned, Judy Blume is a lifelong treasure, and I wish more of my favourite childhood authors would write quality adult novels as well.

I've broken this author spotlight up into three categories: her children's books, her young adult books, and her adult books (according to me). There really is something here for everyone. She has an enormous repertoire across the three age groups but I still wanted to call out my favourites, so books with a heart beside their titles are personal recommendations.

KIDS' BOOKS


The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo (1969) --- I read Blume's kids book in my preteen years, which was a mistake. When I got into her preteen material I felt like I needed to go back and read her whole repertoire (I'm still like this), so I was too old to be reading books like this one and obviously have a bad perspective because I remember it being childish, go figure huh? It's about a middle child named Freddy who feels his chance for the spotlight is being the kangaroo in the school play, because he's the best jumper in his class... you can see why I maybe felt it was childish. This would be a great gift for a young boy (8-9?) or a middle child.

Iggie's House (1970) --- Blume has a way of embedding really difficult social issues into her childrens' books, and making them seem ridiculous from the perspective of children. This is most apparent in Iggie's House, where a young girl named Winnie wants to befriend the first black family in the neighbourhood, who have moved into the former house of her ex-best friend Iggie. Reading from the perspective of a child who is learning about racism makes the concept seem so other-worldly. Childhood ignorance is something we all take for granted.



Freckle Juice (1971) --- I never read this, but it's literally about a young boy who wants freckles and tries a number of strategies to get them.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing- Fudge #1 (1972) ❤️ --- This was a really funny book about a young boy named Peter who is constantly annoyed with his toddler brother Farley (who they call Fudge). It ended up being the first book in a series casually called "The Fudge Series" and I believe it was adapted into a TV series at one point but I never watched it. It's fascinating how Blume can so accurately write the perspectives of both young girls and young boys. I hope my niece and nephew grow into big readers because this is one series I hope to force on them.

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great- Fudge #2 (1972) --- This book is memorable to me because when Mean Girls came out I remember thinking they stole the idea for the "Burn Book" from this book. At a sleepover the young girls make a "slam book" and endless drama ensues. Anyways. This book is about a girl named Sheila who is scared of everything (off the top of my head I remember dogs and water, but I'm sure there were more) but pretends she's an incredibly confident person. While this is the second book in "The Fudge Series" because she's related to Peter and Fudge, they aren't really main characters in this one.

The Pain and the Great One (1974) --- This is Blume's only picture book. I never read it.

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself (1977) --- This book is rumoured to be autobiographical. Apparently there are a lot of similarities between Sally's 10th year and Blume's. In this book a young girl named Sally moves to Miami from New Jersey with her family at the end of WWII. In Miami Sally is exposed to issues of racism and anti-semitism, and readers follow along as a child navigates these topics more maturely than most adults. Similar to Iggie's House, I think its refreshing to 'learn' about these issues through the naivety of a child.

Superfudge- Fudge #3 (1980) --- In Superfudge readers return to the characters from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. The Hatcher boys have a new little sister named Tootsie, and Fudge spends most of this book causing trouble trying to get rid of her. This whole 'Fudge series' was top of Blume's children's fiction game, but this book would make an especially good gift for a kid who has recently become a big brother/sister.

Letters to Judy: What Kids Wish They Could Tell You (1986) --- I haven't read this but I always thought it seemed very "chicken-soup-esque" in that children wrote Blume letters confiding in her with all sorts of issues from being a loner to their parents' divorce, etc. and she wrote them back. It's essentially a self help column for kids, compiled into a book. I bet they would honestly be pretty fun to read as an adult, but perhaps really sad too.

Fudge-a-Mania- Fudge #4 (1990) ❤️ --- If I haven't made it clear yet, this whole 'Fudge series' is insanely cute, but this one is for sure the best. The Hatchers and the Tubmans (a.k.a. Sheila's family from Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great) all rent a cottage in Maine together one summer. I've always had a weird bias towards any novels taking place on the American East Coast, perhaps this book lit that flame. New friends at the cottage are introduced, and child's play ensues. It's a great summer read for any kid and I look forward to making all the kiddos in my life read this. Summer book club, I'm going to be a sick parent.

Double Fudge- Fudge #5 (2002) --- This is the last book in the 'Fudge series' and it can't hold a candle to Fudge-a-Mania. I wish Blume had just stopped there. In this book the Hatchers go to Washington, Fudge learns he shares a name with a distant cousin, other dumb stuff happens... Essentially, this was a disappointing end to what I felt was a fantastic kids' series. Perhaps she'll write a 6th and bring it all back home, it's only been 17 years...

YOUNG ADULT BOOKS


Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (1970) ❤️ --- This is the book that really got me into Judy Blume. I was obsessed with it, as I'm sure most 11 year old girls were. It's about a girl named Margaret who's going through puberty- cue periods, bras, fights with your friends, crushes, etc., and who talks to God to "try it out" because one parent is Christian and the other is Jewish. It's incredibly funny and charming, I really don't know how Blume managed so accurately to channel the inner voice of a preteen girl, but she nailed it. There have been rumours for a few years now that this is being adapted into a movie. I'm not really sure how I feel about that.

Then Again, Maybe I Won't (1971) --- I remember not really enjoying this book, it was sort of Blume's male counterpart to Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret (Wiki confirms this is exactly what this book is). It's a story about a male preteen named Tony going through puberty who befriends a bit of a trouble-maker. Being for boys, I didn't get a lot out of it, and I barely remember it as well.



It's Not the End of the World (1972) --- This book is about an 11 year old girl named Karen whose parents are getting divorced. I remember not enjoying it but likely because I couldn't relate. Blume has a suspiciously weird knack for being able to realistically write in the voice of kids, so I imagine a preteen girl would actually love this if her parents were getting divorced. Despite the serious subject matter, it still has a lot of the same humour everyone expects from Blume so it's not a super miserably depressing read.

Deenie (1973) --- I blame this book for my hypochondria. Ever since reading about Deenie who gets diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 13 and has to wear a back brace through high school, I've been worried almost daily about some ailment or another. Scoliosis creates a lot of internal drama with Deenie about whether or not she pursues her crush, goes to parties, etc. with her back brace, and some familial drama as well because Deenie's mother always wanted her to become a model. This book would be amazing for a young adult who has something they're particularly self-conscious about, medical conditions or otherwise. I think reading Deenie and seeing how she overcomes high school in a back brace could make someone feel more comfortable with whatever it is that's making him or her feel self-conscious.

Blubber (1974) --- I may be wrong but I feel this is one of Blume's most famous books. Whenever I think of Judy Blume's young adult repertoire this is the first book I think of. Blubber is about middle school bullying and it is brutal. Essentially, a bunch of girls start teasing an overweight girl by calling her "blubber" because she did a class presentation about whales. Over the course of the book, most of the characters have been bullied or ostracized at least once, and I honestly don't remember it having a super uplifting ending. Blume provides a scarily accurate account about how much female friendships torment you at this age, and how much gossip, inside jokes, cliques, and nicknames literally run your life.

Just As Long as We're Together (1987) ❤️ --- This book, along with its companion Here's To You, Rachel Robinson, were my favourites growing up. I loved Stephanie, Rachel, and Alison, three best friends, and I wanted so badly to be them. In one of these two books they decorate a hangout room with all kinds of glitter and such and I desperately wanted a glitter hangout room decorated by my best friends and I. This book is narrated by Stephanie, who is going through puberty and dealing with a new girl (Alison) becoming chummy with her best friend (Rachel), which is every preteen girl's worst nightmare.

Here's to You, Rachel Robinson (1993) ❤️ --- As I previously mentioned, this was a favourite young adult novel for me. It's sort of the flip side of Just As Long As We're Together, and deals with a lot of the same drama only from Rachel's perspective, and I always liked Rachel better. This book is also the reason I am now obsessed with alliterative names.

Adult Books


Tiger Eyes (1981) --- This book was darker than most of the other Blume books I'd read at this point. It's about a teenage girl named Davey whose dad is shot at a 7/11 one night. Her family then struggles with loss and depression, and move from Atlanta to New Mexico to be closer to family. In New Mexico Davey is exposed to other issues such as alcoholism. Blume's son, Lawrence Blume, adapted this into a movie in 2012 starring Willa Holland as Davey, but I never saw it.

Willa Holland (left) and someone I don't know from the 2012 film adaptation of Tiger Eyes


Forever... (1975) --- Growing up anytime I was reading Judy Blume, my mom would say something along the lines of, "when you get older you can read Forever..., it's very mature". So one day, still too young, I found it at a family function at my Aunt Sheri's house and I snuck off to another room and read the whole thing in one sitting. I needed to know what my mom was talking about. And she was right, it was way too mature for me. I've since learned it actually ranked 7th on the American Library Association's list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of the 90's because of the way it handles teenage sexuality. It's for teenagers, but I've included it in the "adult" section because I don't need our blog getting a censorship warning or anything lame.

The book is about teenagers who have sex. That's it and it's really not a big deal, but it includes a lot of graphic scenes where Michael teaches Katherine how to give him a hand job, it discusses a classmate's attempted suicide, and it really explores the complex question of when the right time is to have sex with someone. I can easily see why people in a Bible Belt would hate it. Personally, I think it would be a great way to discuss sex with your teenage daughter, but it is on the detailed side so definitely read it before assigning it to your kids. It was also adapted into a TV movie in 1978 that you can probably watch on the dark web somewhere.

Wifey (1978) --- I wrote an entire review on this book here. I found it mildly dated, but overall a really fun read. There was a lot of controversy about it when it was first published as its about a promiscuous 1970's housewife, so that's 2 for 3 on controversial adult novels for Blume- if you're keeping track. Wifey is, in my opinion, the female empowerment novel we all need to convince us not to 'settle' and to remind us that we all deserve to be truly happy in life, not just sort of satisfied. It's funny, charming, easy to read, and includes lots of great material on being a wife and a mother. If you're looking for a place to get started (as an adult), this is a great first Blume read.

Smart Women (1983) --- I've also reviewed this book already in full (here). I liked a lot of the characters and the overall plot but I felt like it was too busy. The book focuses on a few key families and the different familial drama happening in each one, usually centered around parenting or the parents' love lives. Again, this is content that I love but I feel like Blume could have easily written a full novel on each family. I still think if you like Blume, and you like fiction overall, it's a good read. I'd especially recommend it if you're a single parent or doing the dating thing as a parent.

Summer Sisters (1998) ❤️ --- This is one of my favourite books of all time. I reviewed it in detail here. It's about best friends growing up who spend their summers on Martha's Vineyard together. By proxy, it's also about their parents, their friends, their love lives, etc. It's a perfect fiction novel and every female can find something to love in it. I highly, highly recommend it.

In the Unlikely Event (2015) --- This book was interesting and also unlike anything I'd read of Blume's. It may just be the case of her writing style changing after a 13 year hiatus. The book is told from the perspective of a fifteen year old girl as she deals with three plane crashes in her town in under three months- this is real and actually happened in Blume's hometown when she was young (Elizabeth, NJ, the same town the book is set in). The true events took her writing in a different direction, and I remember enjoying it but feeling like I was reading a different author's work. It will be interesting when/if she ever writes something else to see if she returns to her original style (whatever that was) or if she continues on in this newer style (whatever it is).

Other things worth reading if you love Judy Blume:

Lena Dunham interviewing Blume for KCRW Radio. in 2014. I love this interview so much. Blume gives an tearjerking quote about how writing "gave her [her] life" and Dunham describes how Summer Sisters inspired the friendships on Girls. 

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