It’s true. Judy Blume is kind of my hero. I remember stalking the shelves of Arlington Heights public school library when I was in third grade hoping to find “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” so I could check it out for, like, the twenty-fifth time. The librarian, seeing what book I was attempting to check out, yet again, would cheerfully suggest other titles that she hoped would inspire me to broaden my literary horizons. I would listen, smiling and nodding, then thank her for her input and shoved “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” into my backpack.
Unlike many other beloved titles from a childhood long ago and far away, Judy Blume’s books continue to hold up. Why? Other than well-rounded characters and excellent plotting, one might posture that it’s actually because she dares to tackle controversial topics that pique kids’ interest like racism (Iggie’s House), menstruation (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret), divorce (It’s Not the End of the World, Just As Long As We’re Together), bullying (Blubber), masturbation (Deenie; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t) and teen sex (Forever).
Ms. Blume has written 21 some novels with sales exceeding 80 million copies that have been translated into 31 languages. Considering her brave approach to “controversial” topics, it shouldn’t be a surprise that she is one of the most censored authors of all time. I say good for you, Judy Blume! In fact, on the list of the top 100 most challenged books between 1990 and 1999 at the American Library Association, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, comes in at number sixty.
This book tells the tale of an eleven year old girl, Margaret Simon, who is growing up with no organized religion (her father is Jewish and her mother Christian). She, nevertheless, has a close personal relationship with God who she sees as her friend and confidant, someone she talks to when she cannot seem to talk to anyone else about important issues in her life. When assigned a yearlong independent project at school, Margaret chooses the weighty task of studying people’s beliefs. Through serious yet sometimes comical situations, the book also deals with several other taboo topics: Margaret having to buy her very first bra; having her first period; jealousy over other girls having more curvaceous figures; and, of course, boys.
Apparently the book lands on the “most censored” list because it deals openly with sexuality and religion.
The Judy Blume books are awesome Christmas gifts. If you have emerging readers, then start with “Freckle Juice.” The publishers put together some excellent boxed sets for the holidays for slightly older readers.