Revisting Judy Blume


Judy Blume is everywhere again.  There's a wonderful documentary out there Forever Judy Blume (I highly recommend it) and they've made a movie out of the iconic, Are You There God, Its Me Margaret. To me, that's a good thing.  I grew up reading Judy Blume.  I'd like to say that I've read everything she's written, but in doing my research I haven't.  There are a least 2 "middle grade/young adult" books that I missed:  Just As Long As We're Together, and Here's To You Rachel Robinson.  I guess I "aged" out of them. Maybe now is the time to find them and read them...maybe now is the time to go back and read ALL of them.

I know Judy Blume is (currently) one of the most banned authors. I never got the whole banning thing.  Telling a kid/teen NOT to do something (often) only makes them want to do it more!  If you don't want your child to read something; don't let them, but don't tell me or my child what I can or cannot read.  You don't have that right.  Nor do I have the right to "force" you or your child to read something.  (Although I don't know how that would be possible.)

With that said, I DID "censor" Judy Blume, not once, but twice!  When my son was young, I read Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing to him.  SPOILER ALERT:  the last chapter has Fudge "eating" (swallowing) his older brother Peter's pet turtle.  (When I originally read this as a child, I couldn't understand how Fudge managed this.  When I thought of turtles, I thought of turtles that lived in the lake at the park.  It wasn't until years later that I found out teeny tiny turtles existed and were sold as pets.  This in no way damaged my enjoyment of the book.) I was sure that my son, who at the time slept with a plush turtle (which he had had since infancy), would have gotten very upset by this.  (Previously we had read The Velveteen Rabbit to him and when that toy became a real rabbit, it didn't go over well.  There were hysterical tears for what seemed like hours.) I can't remember if I just didn't read the last chapter to him or if I modified it in some way.  But it was MY decision (actually it probably was the decision of both my husband and I) and what I felt was right for my child at the time.  I would never insist another parent do that.  We did continue to read the Fudge series of books to my son, and as I did "censor" once again when it one of the books there was discussion that Santa Claus was not real.  I "skipped" over that.  Again, it was our decision and what was right for our family at the time.  I've always tried to do what is right for MY family and kept my nose out of other people's business.  Unless asked, it's not my place.

As a child/teen my parents didn't tell what I couldn't read.  They did tell me some books I should read (and I didn't always like that.)  I started off with Nancy Drew, devouring as quickly as I could.  (Perhaps too quickly.)  I still treasure the original 1930s versions that my mother had read when she was a child.  

Judy Blume was the author to read when I was young, and so I did.  Are You There God, Its Me Margaret was a MUST, at least if you were female.  I (vaguely) remember one boy reading it (I think in 4th grade) and wondering why.  I didn't understand Iggie's House and I HATED Blubber (it definitely hit too close to home).  I liked The Again Maybe I Won't because like Tony, I often had a "nervous stomach" (and it gave me insight into what life would be like if I weren't female).  Deenie was a good book and taught me about scoliosis (and NOT masturbation...WHY are some people OBSESSED about that?  I can barely remember the brief mention of Deenie's "special place").  Forever did NOT make me want to have sex; although I did want to have a boyfriend.  (The book was "secretly" passed around in middle school...although how "secret" was it really?)  My favorite titles by Ms. Blume were Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself  (Sally was the type of person I wanted to be), It's Not the End of the World (my parents never divorced and I didn't know that many kids who were affected by divorce at the time, but the overall family dynamic felt so real) and Tiger Eyes.  All these Judy Blume books, plus tons of other young adult and adult books (some which were way over my head at the time) were part of my youth.  And still I seemed to turn out fine.  (I suppose that's a matter of opinion.)  I'm an average, ordinary middle aged (old?) woman.  Reading, even things that might not be considered "appropriate" didn't "hurt" me in any way.  Reading was and is a joy to me and if something peeks my interest, I'm going to read it.

Times have changed.  My son was not much of a reader.  We read to him when he was younger, but he never seemed inclined to just read for pleasure.  So when he DID find books that interested him, Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series and Dan Gutman's My Weird School series, we were all in.  He started his own "book" with the hero, Diaper Baby.  Would some say this wasn't appropriate?  They are entitled to their opinions, but my son was reading what he wanted to.  He never became the voracious reader that I am, but he read whatever he wanted to and whatever interested him which included The Great Gatsby (before it was a required book in high school) and the Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize winning The Angel Killers (because of his fascination of the Civil War, which led us to participating in historical reenactments) while he was still in middle school.  As he wraps up his senior year in high school he is taking Advanced Placement English Literature & Composition as well as an honors course, Intro to Creative Non-Fiction.  And it all began with Captain Underpants.

I'm not the kind of person to tell anyone what to do. (Or at least I try not to be.)  If my advice or opinion is solicited, then I'm all in.  And since this is a place where I can share my whatever you want.  If you have children, encourage them to read whatever may tickle their fancy.  Don't let labels hold you back; read whatever.  As for me, I'm going to go back and revisit my childhood with Judy Blume. (I really DO wish I had my original copies.)  



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