The Essential Judy Blume

All the Fudge books — “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” (ages 8 to 12; published in 1972), “Superfudge,” “Fudge-a-Mania” and “Double Fudge” — should be required read for people who struggle with complicated family dynamics. But “ Tales ” is my darling because it sets the scene so perfectly. Blume introduces us to the Hatcher parents and their polar opposite sons : Peter, the titular fourthly grader who is well-meaning and tidal bore to please, but not in an annoying way, and his little buddy, Fudge, who is — to put it mildly — a human whirlwind, the kind of kid you ’ five hundred never want to babysit for ( despite his charm ). He smears mashed potatoes on the wall of the Hatchers ’ apartment, he swallows Peter ’ s pet capsize, Dribble, and insults his don ’ s knob at a Very Important Dinner. ( When you read Blume ’ s books as an adult, you notice how frequently she mentions her characters ’ parents ’ jobs, and how sensible she is to their struggles. ) Peter ’ randomness frustrated affection for Fudge is a ointment for all of us who have simultaneously loved and loathed person we live with. persona

Meet the Hatchers ’ neighbor Sheila Tubman, who gets dragooned into leaving Manhattan for the summer before starting fifth degree. In “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (ages 8 to 12; published in 1972), the Tubmans relocate to Tarrytown, N.Y., to house-sit for a colleague of Sheila ’ s dad. ( He ’ s an english professor at Marymount College. ) The idea is to enjoy the local pool and a borrowed frump, but our refreshingly unplucky heroine is afraid of swimming and of Jennifer, who is “ minor with brown and white spots and long ears ” — not to mention ghosts, making new friends and the local anesthetic legend/nightmare, the Headless Horseman, courtesy of Washington Irving. How she wrestles with all ( or most ) of these terrors is both realistic and inspiring. Before passing this one along to the younger generation, however, be mindful that it was published in 1972 and Blume uses the linguistic process of that earned run average to talk about weight unit. “ I think she is getting fat, ” Sheila observes of a friend, adding, “ She should go on a diet. ” effigy

Blubber ” (ages 8 to 12; published in 1974) comes with respective caveats : The history involves a fifth grader, Linda, who is cruelly tormented by classmates for being overweight. flush the school nurse advises her — within earshot of the narrator, Jill, and her gaggle of friends — to cut back on sweets. Jill ’ s ma smokes. A school bus driver tells his passengers to shut up. Welcome to the ’ 70s, folks. I ’ m not condoning such behavior ( although I can ’ t say I blame the bus driver ). I ’ megabyte including “ Blubber ” in this elect company because it takes the lector inside the head of a hateful girlfriend and helps us understand what motivates her to pick on person — and how it feels when the tables finally turn, as they always do. “ Bullying is often kept a privy by the kids who see it happening, ” Blume writes in a note at the end of the book. “ No more secrets. If it happens to you, talk to the people you trust the most. It ’ mho excessively hard to worry alone. ”


My favorite Judy Blume novel, “ Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself ” (ages 8 to 12; published in 1977), begins with Sally in a board house at the Jersey Shore, eating jelly sandwiches with her grandma, Ma Fanny, when Bing Crosby ’ mho croon is interrupted by a radio announcer : “ The war is over. ” His voice breaks on the death discussion. Strangers dance in the kitchen and march on the boardwalk with american flags. But for the Freedman family of Elizabeth, N.J. ( where Blume grew up ), a modern wave of stress promptly rolls in : sortie ’ s brother, Douglas, has trouble oneself recuperating from a kidney infection, so they temporarily relocate to Miami Beach to give him some time in the sun. Sally misses her dad, who is a dentist ( as was Blume ’ s father ) ; his visits are few and far between. And she ’ south busy trying to make sense of her newfangled life : Why can ’ t a Black family ride in her gearing car ? Is her creepy neighbor actually Hitler in disguise ? Will she ever become a movie star ? For sally, there are no easy answers to any of these questions. The presence of her complicated, loving class is the merely common denominator .

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