Blume, Judy 1938-
Blume, Judy 1938-
Born February 12, 1938, in Elizabeth, NJ; daughter of Rudolph (a dentist) and Esther Sussman; married John M. Blume (an attorney), August 15, 1959 (divorced, 1975); married George Cooper (a writer), June 6, 1987; children: (first marriage) Randy Lee (daughter), Lawrence Andrew; Amanda (stepdaughter). Education: New York University, B.A., 1961. Religion: Jewish.
Home—Key West, FL, and New York, NY. Office—c/o Tashmoo Productions, 1841 Broadway, Ste. 711A, New York, NY 10023. Agent—Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10022. E-mail—JudyB@judyblume.com.
Writer of juvenile and adult fiction. Founder and trustee of KIDS Fund, 1981.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (member of board), Authors Guild (member of council), National Coalition against Censorship (council of advisors), Key West Literary Seminar (member of board).
Best Books for Children selection, New York Times, 1970, Nene Award, Hawaii Association of School Librarians/Hawaii Library Association, 1975, Young Hoosier Book Award, Association for Indiana Media Educators, 1976, and North Dakota Children's Choice Award, Children's Round Table of the North Dakota Library Association, 1979, all for Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Charlie May Swann Children's Book Award, Arkansas Elementary School Council, 1972, Young Readers Choice Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association, and Sequoyah Children's Book Award, Oklahoma Library Association, both 1975, Arizona Young Readers Award, Arizona State University/University of Arizona—Tempe, Massachusetts Children's Book Award, Education Department of Salem State College, Georgia Children's Book Award, College of Education of the University of Georgia, and South Carolina Children's Book Award, South Carolina Association of School Librarians, all 1977, Rhode Island Library Association Award, 1978, North Dakota Children's Choice Award, Children's Round Table of the North Dakota Library Association, and West Australian Young Readers' Book Award, Library Association of Australia, both 1980, and United States Army in Europe Kinderbuch Award and Great Stone Face Award, New Hampshire Library Council, both 1981, all for Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing; Outstanding Books of the Year selection, New York Times, 1974, Arizona Young Readers Award, and Young Readers Choice Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association, both 1977, and North Dakota Children's Choice Award, Children's Round Table of the North Dakota Library Association, 1983, all for Blubber; South Carolina Children's Book Award, South Carolina Association of School Librarians, 1978, for Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great; Michigan Young Reader's Award, 1980, for Freckle Juice; Texas Bluebonnet list, 1980, CRABery Award, Michigan Young Reader's Award, Michigan Council of Teachers, and International Reading Association Children's Choice Award, all 1981, Buckeye Children's Book Award, State Library of Ohio, Nene Award, Sue Hefley Book Award, Louisiana Association of School Libraries, United States Army in Europe Kinderbuch Award, West Australian Young Readers' Book Award, Library Association of Australia, North Dakota Children's Choice Award, Children's Round Table of the North Dakota Library Association, Colorado Children's Book Award, University of Colorado, Georgia Children's Book Award, Tennessee Children's Choice Book Award, Texas Bluebonnet Award, Texas Association of School Librarians and the Children's Round Table, and Utah Children's Book Award, Children's Literature Association of Utah, all 1982, Northern Territory Young Readers' Book Award, Young Readers Choice Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association, Garden State Children's Book Award, Iowa Children's Choice Award, Iowa Educational Media Association, Arizona Young Readers' Award, Young Reader Medal, California Reading Association, and Young Hoosier Book Award, Association for Indiana Media Educators, all 1983, Land of Enchantment Book Award, 1984, and Sunshine State Young Reader's Award, Florida Association for Media in Education, 1985, all for Superfudge; CRABery Award, 1982, Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, Vermont Department of Libraries and the Vermont Congress of Parents and Teachers, Buckeye Children's Book Award, State Library of Ohio, Young Reader Medal, California Reading Association, and American Book Award finalist, Association of American Publishers, all 1983, and Blue Spruce Colorado Young-Adult Book Award, Colorado Library Association, and Iowa Children's Choice Award, Iowa Educational Media Association, both 1985, all for Tiger Eyes; Children's Books of the Year selection, Child Study Association of America, 1985, for The Pain and the Great One; Best Books for Young Adults selection, American Library Association (ALA), 1986, for Letters to Judy; Young Reader Medal, California Reading Association, Iowa Children's Choice Award, Nene Award, Nevada Young Readers Award, Nevada Library Association, Sunshine State Young Reader's Award, Pennsylvania Young Reader's Award, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, and Michigan Readers Choice Award, all 1993, all for Fudge-a-Mania; Parent's Choice Award, 1993, for Here's to You, Rachel Robinson. Golden Archer Award, 1974; Today's Woman Award, Council of Cerebral Palsy Auxiliary, Nassau County, 1981; Outstanding Mother Award, 1982; Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, Favorite Author—Children's Choice Award, Milner Award, Friends of the Atlanta Public Library, for children's favorite living author, and Jeremiah Ludington Memorial Award, all 1983; Carl Sandburg Freedom to Read Award, Chicago Public Library, 1984; Civil Liberties Award, Atlanta American Civil Liberties Union, and John Rock Award, Center for Population Options, both 1986; D.H.L., Kean College, 1987; Excellence in the Field of Literature Award, New Jersey Education Association, 1987; South Australian Youth Media Award for Best Author, South Australian Association for Media Education, 1988; Most Admired Author, Heroes of Young America Poll, 1989; National Hero Award, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, 1992; Dean's Award, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1993; Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults, ALA, 1996, for lifetime achievement writing for teens; honorary D.F. A., Mount Holyoke College, 2003; Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, National Book Foundation, 2004.
CHILDREN'S FICTION; EXCEPT AS NOTED
The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, illustrated by Lois Axeman, Reilly & Lee (Chicago, IL), 1969, revised edition, illustrated by Amy Aitken, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1981, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004, revised edition, illustrated by Irene Trivas, 1991.
Iggie's House, Bradbury (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1970, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Bradbury (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1970, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004.
Then Again, Maybe I Won't, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1971.
Freckle Juice, Four Winds (New York, NY), 1971.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, illustrated by Roy Doty, Dutton (New York, NY), 1972, reprinted, Puffin (New York, NY), 2003.
Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Dutton (New York, NY), 1972, reprinted, Puffin (New York, NY), 2003.
It's Not the End of the World, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1972.
Deenie, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1973.
Blubber, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1974, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004.
Forever …, (young-adult novel), Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1975, reprinted, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2007.
Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1977, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004.
Superfudge, Dutton (New York, NY), 1980, reprinted, Puffin (New York, NY), 2003.
Tiger Eyes (young-adult novel), Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1981.
The Pain and the Great One, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1984.
Just as Long as We're Together, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Fudge-a-Mania, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.
Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Double Fudge, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
A Judy Blume Collection (contains Deenie, It's Not the End of the World, and Then Again, Maybe I Won't), Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
BFF*: Two Novels by Judy Blume (contains Just as Long as We're Together and Here's to You, Rachel Robinson), Random House (New York, NY), 2007.
Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, illustrated by James Stevenson, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2007.
Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One, illustrated by James Stevenson, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2008.
Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One, illustrated by James Stevenson, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2008.
Contributor to Free to Be … You and Me, by Marlo Thomas and friends, 1973, expanded edition published by Running Press, 2008.
Wifey (adult novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1978, reprinted, 2004.
Smart Women (adult novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, 2004.
Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You (nonfiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1986.
The Judy Blume Memory Book (limited edition), Dell (New York, NY), 1988.
(And producer with son, Lawrence Blume) Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (screenplay; adapted from her novel), Barr Films, 1988.
Summer Sisters (adult novel), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor) Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Contributor to Author Talk: Conversations with Judy Blume (and Others), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Some of Blume's papers are housed in the Kerlan Collection, University of Minnesota.
Forever … was adapted as a television film broadcast by Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1978; Freckle Juice was adapted as an animated film by Barr Films, 1987; the "Fudge" books were adapted by American Broadcasting Companies (ABC) as a television series, 1994-96, and on CBS, 1997; Tales of a Fourth GradeNothing was adapted as a play; Wifey was produced by Audio Book in 1979. Listening Library has adapted various Blume books along with teacher's guides, including Freckle Juice, 1982; Blubber, 1983; The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, 1983; and Deenie, 1983. Audiobooks adapted by Listening Library include Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, 1985; It's Not the End of the World, 1985; and The Pain and the Great One, 1985. Blume books adapted for audio by Ingram include Superfudge, 1992; Fudge-a-Mania, 1993; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, 1996; Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, 1997; and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, 1997.
"For several generations of former adolescents, Judy Blume is the reason flashlights were invented," observed Entertainment Weekly contributor Rebecca Ascher Walsh. "From the ‘Fudge’ books to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret to Forever …, Blume has expertly guided huddling insomniac masses through the confusion of childhood and teenage hell into young adulthood." Since she published her first book in 1969, Blume has become one of the most popular and controversial authors for children. Her accessible, humorous style and direct, sometimes explicit treatment of youthful concerns have won her many fans—as well as critics who sometimes seek to censor her work. Nevertheless, Blume has continued to produce works that are, according to critics, both entertaining and thought-provoking. "Judy Blume has a knack for knowing what children think about and an honest, highly amusing way of writing about it," Jean Van Leeuwen stated in the New York Times Book Review. The author has also garnered countless honors for her work; in 1996 she won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults, and in 2004 Blume received the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
Many critics attribute Blume's popularity to her ability to discuss openly, realistically, and compassionately the subjects that concern her readers. Her books for younger children, such as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, and Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, deal with problems of sibling rivalry, establishing self-confidence, and social ostracism. Books for older readers, such as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Deenie, and Just as Long as We're Together, consider matters of divorce, friendship, family breakups, and sexual development (including menstruation and masturbation), while Forever … specifically deals with a young woman's first love and first sexual experience. Whatever the situation, however, Blume's characters confront their feelings of confusion as a start to resolving their problems. In Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, for instance, the young protagonist examines her thoughts about religion and speculates about becoming a woman. The result is a book that uses "sensitivity and humor" in capturing "the joys, fears, and uncertainty that surround a young girl approaching adolescence," Lavinia Russ wrote in Publishers Weekly.
Born in New Jersey, in 1938, Blume and her older brother grew up in a home full of books. Her father, a dentist, nurtured her imagination; her mother, quieter and more introspective, encouraged her young daughter in a growing love of books and reading. Beginning in the third grade, Blume, her mother, and her brother went to live in Florida for two years in hopes of improving her brother's heath, and she was separated from her father during this time. The outgoing Blume began taking dance classes as a young child and generally excelled at school, attending an all-girls high school where she sang in the chorus and worked on the school newspaper as a features editor. Graduating from high school, she went on to Boston University for a year until a bout of mononucleosis forced her to drop out. Blume subsequently enrolled at New York University, where she graduated in 1961, majoring in early childhood education. During her sophomore year of college, she met her first husband, John M. Blume, a lawyer, and the couple was married during Blume's junior year. Shortly after graduation, Blume had her first child, Randy Lee, and two years later Randy was joined by brother Lawrence Andrew.
Deciding she needed a creative outlet, Blume began making up children's stories as she went about her housework, even illustrating them in crayon. Her early stories were rejected by magazines, and then, coming upon a brochure for a New York University class in writing for children and young adults, she enrolled. As part of the coursework, she wrote what became her first publication, The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, a picture book about an in-between child. The following semester, Blume took the class once more time, writing the initial draft for her second publication, Iggie's House, a children's novel about racial prejudice. The One in the Middle was published in 1969, and was called "satisfying" by Zena Sutherland in a review for Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
Blume's first two books did not give, however, any indication of the direction she would go with her third, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. In 1967, S.E. Hinton, a schoolgirl herself at the time, revolutionized the world of young-adult literature with her hard-hitting and gritty The Outsiders, a novel about class rivalry in an Oklahoma high school. However, until Blume's 1970 publication of Are You There God?, the literature for younger adolescents had generally gone along its well-worn pathway of simplistic plots and happy endings. With Are You There God?, Blume broke publishing taboos by writing about such topics as a girl's menstrual cycle and first bra. Based on many of Blume's own adolescent experiences, the novel tells the tale of Margaret Simon and her family, who move to the suburbs in New Jersey. There Margaret has to make new friends, and she is beset by such worries as the arrival of her period and the size of her breasts. She is also concerned about religion; born to a Christian mother and Jewish father, Margaret is confused where she fits and thus starts visiting different churches and talking directly with God. Most reviewers praised the book's humor but decried Blume's focus on what were once unmentionables. Ann Evans, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, for example, found that Blume focuses too much on Margaret's body and that her "private talks with God are insufferably self-conscious and arch." A critic for Kirkus Reviews also complained that "there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty." Children did not read the reviews; they read the book. And read it and read it. When it appeared in paperback in 1974, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret attracted readers in the hundreds of thousands, and Blume began getting the deluge of letters from young readers that has persisted over the decades, thanking her for letting them know they were not alone in such thoughts.
Blume repeated the favor for young male readers with Then Again, Maybe I Won't, published in 1971. Here Vic is like Margaret; he has just moved to a new town. He is also worried about the changes that are taking place with his body; he has uncontrollable erections and worries about wet dreams. Vick's family has also undergone a change, recently becoming more affluent. Then Again, Maybe I Won't was not as popular as Are You There God?, but it broke similar ground in juvenile literature, making formerly taboo topics part of the subject matter of children's literature.
More problem books dating from Blume's early career include It's Not the End of the World, in which the twelve-year-old protagonist learns to cope with her parents' separation and divorce; Deenie, in which a beautiful thirteen-year-old girl, whose mother desperately wants her to become a model, is diagnosed with the spinal disease scoliosis; and Blubber, about childhood cruelty as expressed in taunting an overweight girl. Blume's work continued to stir up the critics and invite parental condemnation if not outright attempts—in many schools successful—at censorship. In Deenie, for example, the young girl thinks at first that her disease has been brought on by her masturbation. Despite such concerns, School Library Journal critic Melinda Schroeder called Deenie a "compelling" novel.
Blume's least-controversial and most popular series fiction, the "Fudge" books, encompasses five interrelated stories that span thirty years of writing and start off with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. That book details the trials and tribulations of Peter Warren Hatcher and his younger brother, Fudge. The brothers live in an apartment in Manhattan and undergo the usual sibling rivalry. At one point, young Fudge—rambunctious and often in trouble—swallows his older brother's turtle. This book became the third best-selling children's book of all time, with over six million copies sold. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, a spin-off of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, focuses on Peter's nemesis as she tries to deal with summer camp.
Blume returns to the brothers in Superfudge, in which the Hatcher family is joined by a baby sister, Tootsie, who complicates the boy's lives. The family has also moved to Princeton, New Jersey, and Fudge is ready to enter kindergarten. Superfudge became Blume's best-selling hardcover edition, receiving much praise by critics. Writing in the Washington Post Book World, Brigitte Weeks lauded Blume's ability to create "good clean fun," while School Library Journal critic Pamela D. Pollack commented that "no one knows the byways of the under-twelves better than Blume." Fudge-a-Mania continues the saga with a reunion of all the characters in a summer house in Maine. Even when Blume returns to familiar characters, as she does in this novel and others in the series, her sequels "expand on the original and enrich it, so that [the] stories … add up to one long and much more wonderful story," Van Leeuwen remarked in her New York Times Book Review article about Fudge-a-Mania.
In 2002, to satisfy the wishes of her grandchild, Blume returned once again to Peter and Fudge, writing Double Fudge. In this installment, Fudge is about to begin school and is obsessed with money. His parents take him to visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC, where the family accidentally runs into distant cousins from Hawaii. The Howie Hatcher clan includes twin daughters Fauna and Flora and a younger brother who has the same name as Fudge: Farley Drexel Hatcher. "Peter's wry reactions to the sometimes outsize goings-on, Fudge's inimitable antics and the characters' rousing repartée contribute to the sprightly clip of this cheerful read," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. In Booklist Gillian Engberg commended Blume on her "humor and pitch-perfect ear for sibling rivalry and family dynamics [that] will have readers giggling with recognition."
A more-recent series of humorous tales was inspired by characters from one of Blume's early picture books. First published in 1984, The Pain and the Great One focuses on the relationship between a pair of squabbling siblings: third-grader Abigail, dubbed "The Great One" by her pesky younger brother, Jake, whom she refers to as "The Pain." Zena Sutherland, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, praised the "insight and wit" of that tale. Some two decades later, Blume resurrected the duo in the chapter book Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, illustrated by James Stevenson. The vignettes concern Jake's attempt to deodorize his aunt's foul-smelling dog and Abigail's efforts to host the perfect sleepover, and the pair also join forces to find a clever solution to Jake's fear of the barber. "Blume fills the duo's narratives with playful bickering, banter and baiting, while slyly and satisfyingly revealing their mutual affection," a critic in Publishers Weekly remarked. The siblings' adventures continue in Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One, which addresses a host of childhood concerns, and Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One, which focuses on a series of trips. According to Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper, "Blume gets right to the heart of children's concerns and relationships."
One way in which Blume achieves a close affinity with her readers is through her consistent use of first-person narratives. As R.A. Siegal explained in the Lion and the Unicorn, "Through this technique she succeeds in establishing intimacy and identification between character and audience. All her books read like diaries or journals and the reader is drawn in by the narrator's self-revelations." In Just as Long as We're Together, for instance, the twelve-year-old heroine "tells her story in simple, real kid language," noted Mitzi Myers in the Los Angeles Times, "inviting readers to identify with her dilemmas over girlfriends and boyfriends and that most basic of all teen problems: ‘Sometimes I feel grown up and other times I feel like a little kid.’" Stephanie, Alison, and Rachel are the three characters of that title, but Stephanie takes center stage, as her parents split up and she begins to put on weight. More problems ensue as she starts to have problems with her friends, partly because of a new friendship Stephanie is forming with Alison. The girls make a return engagement—this time with the focus on Rachel—in Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, a book "filled with intelligence and humor and real understanding of the human condition," according to Claire Rosser in Kliatt. In this novel, Rachel's brother, Charles, is expelled from boarding school, much to the chagrin of Rachel's mother, a newly appointed judge. Reviewing both novels, Kliatt critic Sherri Forgash Ginsberg concluded that Blume's books "are truly pure enjoyment."
Although Blume's work is consistently in favor with readers, it has frequently been the target of criticism. Some commentators have charged that the author's readable style, with its focus on mundane detail, lacks the depth to deal with the complex issues that she raises. In a Times Literary Supplement review of Just as Long as We're Together, for example, Jan Dalley claimed that Blume's work "is all very professionally achieved, as one would expect from this highly successful author, but Blume's concoctions are unvaryingly smooth, bland, and glutinous." As Beryl Lieff Benderly noted, however, the author's readability sometimes masks what the critic calls her "enormous skill as a novelist" in a Washington Post Book World review of the same book. "While apparently presenting the bright, slangy, surface details of life in an upper-middle class suburban junior high school," Benderly added, Blume is "really plumbing the meaning of honesty, friendship, loyalty, secrecy, individuality, and the painful, puzzling question of what we owe those we love."
Other reviewers have taken exception to Blume's tendency to avoid resolving fictional dilemmas in a straightforward fashion, for her protagonists rarely finish dealing with all their difficulties by the end of the book. Many critics, however, think that it is to Blume's credit that she does not settle every problem for her readers. Robert Lipsyte, writing in the Nation, maintained that "Blume explores the feelings of children in a nonjudgmental way. The immediate resolution of a problem is never as important as what the protagonist … will learn about herself by confronting her life." Lipsyte explained that "the young reader gains from the emotional adventure story both by observing another youngster in a realistic situation and by finding a reference from which to start a discussion with a friend or parent or teacher. For many children, talking about a Blume story is a way to expose their own fears about menstruation or masturbation or death."
Even more disturbing to some adults are Blume's treatment of mature issues and her use of frank language. "Menstruation, wet dreams, masturbation, all the things that are whispered about in real school halls" are the subjects of Blume's books, related interviewer Sandy Rovner in the Washington Post. As a result, Blume's works have frequently been the targets of censorship, and Blume herself has become an active crusader for freedom of expression. As she related to Instructor contributor Judy Freeman, "I felt alone and frightened when my books first came under attack. I felt angry. But for many years now I've felt sad—sad for the kids—because banning a book sends such a negative message. It says to them, ‘There's something in this book we don't want you to know about, something we don't want to discuss with you.’" To answer those who would censor her work for its explicitness, Blume replied: "The way to instill values in children is to talk about difficult issues and bring them out in the open, not to restrict their access to books that may help them deal with their problems and concerns," she said in a Toronto Globe and Mail interview with Isabel Vincent.
Blume realizes that the controversial nature of her work receives the most attention, and that causes concern for her beyond any censorship attempts. As the author explained to New York Times Magazine contributor Joyce Maynard: "What I worry about is that an awful lot of people, looking at my example, have gotten the idea that what sells is teenage sex, and they'll exploit it. I don't believe that sex is why kids like my books. The impression I get, from letter after letter [I receive], is that a great many kids don't communicate with their parents. They feel alone in the world. Sometimes, reading books that deal with other kids who feel the same things they do makes them feel less alone." The volume of Blume's fan mail seems to reinforce the fact that her readers are looking for contact with an understanding adult. Hundreds of letters arrive each week not only praising her books but also asking her for advice or information. As Blume remarked to Steinberg in Publishers Weekly, "I have a wonderful, intimate relationship with kids. It's rare and lovely. They feel that they know me and that I know them."
In 1986, Blume collected a number of letters from her readers and published them, along with some of her own comments, as Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You. The resulting book, aimed at both children and adults, "is an effort to break the silence, to show parents that they can talk without looking foolish, to show children that parents are human and remember what things were like when they were young, and to show everyone that however trivial the problem may seem it's worth trying to sort it out," wrote New Statesman contributor Adélè Geras. "If parents and children alike read ‘Letters to Judy,’" advice columnist Elizabeth Winship likewise observed in the New York Times Book Review, "it might well help them to ease into genuine conversation. The book is not a how-to manual, but one compassionate and popular author's way to help parents see life through their children's eyes, and feel it through their hearts and souls." Blume feels so strongly about the lack of communication between children and their parents that she has used the royalties from Letters to Judy, among other projects, to help endow the KIDS Fund, which she established in 1981. Each year, the fund contributes its income to various nonprofit organizations set up to help young people communicate with their parents.
Like other critics, Washington Post Book World contributor Carolyn Banks commended Blume not only for her honest approach to issues, but for her "artistic integrity." "She's never content to rest on her laurels, writing the same book over and over as so many successful writers do," Banks noted. For instance, Tiger Eyes, the story of Davey, a girl whose father is killed in a robbery, is "a lesson on how the conventions of a genre can best be put to use," Lipsyte claimed. While the author uses familiar situations and characters, showing Davey dealing with an annoying younger sibling, a move far from home, and a new family situation, "the story deepens, takes turns," the critic continued, particularly when Davey's family moves in with an uncle who works for a nuclear weapons plant. The result, Lipsyte stated, is Blume's "finest book—ambitious, absorbing, smoothly written, emotionally engaging and subtly political." Walter Clemons noted in a Newsweek review of Tiger Eyes: "No wonder teen-agers love Judy Blume's novels: … [her] delicate sense of character, eye for social detail and clear access to feelings touches even a hardened older reader. Her intended younger audience gets a first-rate novel written directly to them."
Blume's adult novel Summer Sisters does not deal with such hard-hitting themes as Tiger Eyes, but in this work the author proves that she remains, as Cooper put it, a "pithy writer." Although the book, like Wifey and Smart Women, was published as an adult title, because most of the action focuses on a pair of friends in the adolescence and teenage years, Summer Sisters "could just as easily have been on a YA list," according to Cooper. Set during a series of summers on Martha's Vineyard, the book follows the fortunes of Vix Weaver and Caitlin Somers through the 1970s and 1980s. Vix is the daughter of middle-class parents from Santa Fe, New Mexico, while Caitlin moves in a more upscale crowd. During the summer of their sixth-grade year, Caitlin invites Vix to share her house on the Vineyard, and during subsequent summers spent together the two form a strong bond through shared adventures and sexual awakenings. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt that this "portrait of an unlikely yet enduring friendship as it changes over time … will remind readers why they read Blume's books when they were young: she finds a provocative theme and spins an involving story."
"Blume is concerned [with describing] characters surviving, finding themselves, growing in understanding, coming to terms with life," John Gough noted in School Librarian. While the solutions her characters find and the conclusions they make "may not be original or profound," the critic continued, "… neither are they trivial. The high sales of Blume's books are testimony to the fact that what she has to say is said well and is well worth saying." "Many of today's children have found a source of learning in Judy Blume," Goldberger contended. "She speaks to children, and, in spite of loud protests, her voice is clear to them."
Though she has numerous books to her credit, Blume continues to find the writing process a challenge. As she admitted to Melissa Whitworth in the London Telegraph, "After each book I get panicky, I don't love the reviews. I don't like going through all that, and you would think that, after almost 40 years of writing, I'd have got the hang of it. You can never grow complacent about it because it's always new, it's always exciting and it's always like the first time."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Children's Literature Review, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 2, 1976, Volume 15, 1988, Volume 69, 2001.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 12, 1980, Volume 30, 1984.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 52: American Writers for Children since 1960: Fiction, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986, pp. 30-38.
Fisher, Emma, and Justin Wintle, The Pied Pipers, Paddington Press (New York, NY), 1975.
Gleasner, Diana, Breakthrough: Women in Writing, Walker (New York, NY), 1980.
Lee, Betsey, Judy Blume's Story, Dillon Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1981.
Newsmakers 1998, Issue 4, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
St. James Guide to Young-Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Weidt, Maryann, Presenting Judy Blume, Twayne (Boston, MI), 1989.
Booklist, March 15, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Summer Sisters, p. 1179; June 1, 1999, Sally Estes, review of Places I Never Meant to Be, p. 1812; September 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, "Fudge Is Back!," p. 235; August, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, p. 78; March 1, 2008, Ilene Cooper, review of Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One, p. 67; October 15, 2008, Ilene Cooper, review of Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One, p. 36.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1970, Zena Sutherland, review of The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, p. 125; May, 1975, Zena Sutherland, review of The Pain and the Great One, p. 40; November, 1984, Zena Sutherland, review of The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, p. 125; October, 1993, Roger Sutton, review of Here's To You, Rachel Robinson, p. 39.
Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1985, Peter Gorner, interview with Blume, sec. 2, pp. 1-2.
Commentary, March, 1980, Naomi Decter, "Judy Blume's Children," pp. 65-67.
Entertainment Weekly, October 11, 2002, Rebecca Ascher Walsh, "The ‘Fudge’ Report," p. 77.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), November 17, 1990, Isabel Vincent, "A Heroine for Children," p. C10.
Instructor, May-June, 2005, Judy Freeman, "Talking with Judy Blume," p. 37.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1970, review of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, p. 1093; September 1, 2002, review of Double Fudge, p. 1304; July 1, 2008, review of Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One.
Kliatt, January, 1995, Sherri Forgash Ginsberg, reviews of Just as Long as We're Together and Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, p. 4; January, 1996, Claire Rosser, review of Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, p. 4.
Library Journal, April 15, 1998, Michele Leber, review of Summer Sisters, p. 111.
Lion and the Unicorn, fall, 1978, R.A. Siegal, "Are You There God? It's Me, Me, Me!," pp. 72-77.
Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1987, Mitzi Myers, "An Optimistic World according to Blume."
Ms., July-August, 1998, Carolyn Mackler, "Judy Blume on Sex, the Suburbs, and Summer Sisters," pp. 89-90.
Nation, November 21, 1981, Robert Lipsyte, "A Bridge of Words," pp. 551-553.
Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, May, 1981, Judith M. Goldberger, "Judy Blume: Target of the Censor," pp. 57, 61-62, 81-82.
New Statesman, October 24, 1986, Adélè Geras, "Help!," pp. 28-29.
Newsweek, October 9, 1978, Linda Bird Francke, "Growing up with Judy," pp. 99-101; December 7, 1981, Walter Clemons, review of Tiger Eyes, pp. 101-104.
New Yorker, December 5, 1983, Faith McNulty, "Children's Books for Christmas," pp. 191-201.
New York Times Book Review, January 16, 1972, Dorothy M. Broderick, "Growing Time," p. 8; November 23, 1980, Natalie Babbitt, review of Superfudge, pp. 36-37; June 8, 1986, Elizabeth Winship, "Taking Adolescents Seriously," p. 12; November 11, 1990, Jean Van Leeuwen, "Peter's Pesky Little Brother," p. 29; November 16, 1997, Mark Oppenheimer, "Why Judy Bloom Endures," pp. 44-45.
New York Times Magazine, December 3, 1978, Joyce Maynard, "Coming of Age with Judy Blume!," p. 80.
People, October 16, 1978, John Neary, interview with Blume, pp. 47-48; December 28, 1998, "Judy Blume: The Queen of Preteen Fiction Hits Home with Her Grown-up Fans," p. 80.
Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1971, Lavinia Russ, review of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, pp. 62-63; April 17, 1978, Sybil Steinberg, "PW Interviews: Judy Blume," pp. 6-7; March 30, 1998, review of Summer Sisters, p. 66; August, 1999, review of Places I Never Meant to Be, p. 152; March 4, 2002, "In Full Blume," p. 82; March 18, 2002, John F. Baker, "Judy Blume Moves ‘Fudge,’" p. 16; June 24, 2002, review of Double Fudge, p. 57; August 12, 2002, Sally Lodge, "The Return of Fudge," p. 150; June 18, 2007, review of Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, p. 53.
School Librarian, May, 1987, John Gough, "Growth, Survival, and Style in the Novels of Judy Blume," pp. 100-106.
School Library Journal, January, 1972, Alice Adkins, review of Freckle Juice, p. 50; May, 1974, Melinda Schroeder, review of Deenie, p. 53; August, 1980, Pamela D. Pollack, review of Superfudge, pp. 60-61; June, 1996, Carolyn Caywood, "Deja Views," p. 62; June, 1998, Mary Alice Giarda, review of Summer Sisters, p. 175; August, 1999, Cindy Darling Codell, review of Places I Never Meant to Be, p. 152; September, 2002, Terrie Dorio, review of Double Fudge, p. 181; August, 2007, Laura Lutz, review of Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, p. 77; June, 2008, Maryann H. Owen, review of Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One, p. 96; September, 2008, Kathleen Meulen, review of Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One, p. 138.
Telegraph (London, England), March 2, 2008, Melissa Whitworth, "Judy Blume's Lessons in Love."
Times Educational Supplement, September 20, 2002, Michael Thorn, "Whizz-Kids Revisited," p. 14.
Times Literary Supplement, April 7, 1978, Ann Evans, review of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, p. 383; January 29-February 4, 1988, Jan Dalley, "The Great American Feast," p. 119.
U.S. News and World Report, October 14, 2002, Vicky Hallett, "She Can't Say Farewell to Fudge," p. 12.
Washington Post, November 3, 1981, Sandy Rovner, interview with Blume.
Washington Post Book World, November 9, 1982, Brigitte Weeks, "The Return of Peter Hatcher," p. 12; February 12, 1984, Carolyn Banks, "A Hot Time in the Hot Tub Tonight," p. 3; April 27, 1986, Phyllis Theroux, "Judy Blume Listens to Her Young Readers," pp. 3-4; November 8, 1987, Beryl Lieff Benderly, "Judy Blume: Junior High Blues," p. 19.
Writer's Digest, November, 2001, Karen Struckel Brogan, "Judy Blume," pp. 30-31.
Judy Blume Home Page,http://www.judyblume.com (December 1, 2008).
Judy Blume Web log,http://www.judyblume.com/blog.php (December 1, 2008).
"Blume, Judy 1938-." Something About the Author. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/blume-judy-1938
"Blume, Judy 1938-." Something About the Author. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/blume-judy-1938
Born: February 12, 1938
Elizabeth, New Jersey
Perhaps the most popular author ever of works for upper elementary to junior high school readers, Judy Blume is the creator of honest, often humorous stories that focus on the concerns of teenagers. Her books, including others written for both younger and older audiences, have sold over seventy million copies around the world.
Early life and education
Judy Sussman was born on February 12, 1938, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. She was closer to her father, Ralph Sussman, a dentist, than to her mother, Esther (Rosenfeld) Sussman, a shy homemaker who passed on her love of reading to her daughter. Judy loved going to the library to read adult novels as well as children's books. She was coeditor of her high school newspaper and went on to attend New York University (NYU), where she met John Blume, an attorney. They were married in 1959. After earning her degree in education in 1960, she gave birth to a daughter in 1961 and a son in 1963.
While a homemaker, Judy Blume realized that she needed an outlet for her creative energy and decided that she wanted to write. She composed several children's novels and took writing courses at NYU. Her husband was not encouraging. He told her that he thought it was great that she was writing if it meant she would not shop as much. Her confidence grew, though, as she began to sell a few stories to magazines and even had one of her children's books accepted for publication.
The release of a book written for an adolescent audience, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, in 1970 brought huge success to Blume. The novel describes eleven-year-old Margaret's worries and fears about starting her period and choosing her own religion. At the time of its publication, Blume was praised for her warm and funny descriptions of childhood feelings and conversation. She was also criticized, however, for the book's references to the human body and its processes. There were many attempts in different cities to have the book removed from library shelves. This book is now considered a groundbreaking work due to the honesty with which Blume presents previously taboo (not talked about) subjects.
Blume went on to write other successful books for different age groups. Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing (1972) and Superfudge (1980), two entertaining tales about ten-year-old Peter and his uncontrollable baby brother, Fudge, were especially popular with readers. Blume also caused another controversy (dispute) with the release of Forever (1975), in which she relates the details of her eighteen-year-old heroine's first sexual experience. Despite the fact that it was published as an adult book, protesters pointed out that Blume's popularity with readers and uncomplicated writing style attracted a preteen audience that could be influenced by the details of the novel. In Tiger Eyes (1981), Blume relates the story of how fifteen-yearold Davey adjusts to her father's murder. Hailed by many critics as Blume's finest work for her successful handling of a complicated plot, Tiger Eyes includes such issues as alcoholism, suicide, and violence.
Praise and criticism
Reviewers commended Blume for her honesty, warmth, and wit, praising her keen observation of childhood and strong appeal to children. Her books for younger children, such as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, deal with problems such as getting along with one's brothers and sisters, establishing self-confidence, and having no friends. Books for young adults, such as Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, Deenie, and Just As Long as We're Together, consider matters of divorce, friendship, family breakups, and sexual development.
Blume's discussion of sexuality reflects her ability to target the issues that most interest young people. She explained to John Neary of People, "I think I write about sexuality because it was uppermost in my mind when I was a kid: the need to know, and not knowing how to find out. My father delivered these little lectures to me, the last one when I was 10, on how babies are made. But questions about what I was feeling, and how my body could feel, I never asked my parents."
Although Blume's work is consistently popular with readers, it has often been the target of criticism. Some have charged that her readable style, with its focus on small detail, lacks the depth to deal with the complicated issues that she raises. Other reviewers point out that the problems of her characters are often left unresolved by the end of the book. Many critics, however, think it is to Blume's credit that she does not settle every problem for her readers.
As a result of Blume's popularity, she began to receive hundreds of fan letters every week, some of them asking her advice on different issues. In 1986 she collected a number of these letters from her readers and published them, along with her own comments, as Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You. The resulting book was meant for both children and adults to help them better communicate with each other. Blume feels so strongly about the lack of communication between children and their parents that she used the profits from sales of Letters to Judy, among other projects, to help finance the KIDS Fund, which she established in 1981. Each year the fund contributes approximately $45,000 to various nonprofit organizations set up to help young people communicate with their parents.
Over the years Blume's writing has matured and her audience has expanded with each new book. While she wrote for younger children at first, as her audience aged she began writing for teenagers and later for adults. Her first adult novel, Wifey, deals with a woman's search for more out of life and marriage. Smart Women finds a divorced woman trying to deal with single motherhood and new relationships. Summer Sisters examines the relationship between two adult women whose friendship has grown apart since the teenage years of their lives. Blume enjoys writing for all audiences: "I wish that older readers would read my books about young people, and I hope that younger readers will grow up to read what I have to say about adult life. I'd like to feel that I write for everybody."
As a result of the controversy surrounding some of her books, Blume also increased her activities opposing censorship (the act of examining materials such as books or films and removing anything considered objectionable or obscene) and supporting intellectual freedom. In 1999 she edited Places I Never Meant to Be, a collection of stories written by people whose work was the target of censorship efforts. Having divorced her first husband, Blume lives in Key West, Florida, with her second husband, George Cooper, also a writer. They were married in 1987.
Judy Blume continues to write for children and adults. She is also involved in a new project adopting her earlier children's novels into home videos.
For More Information
Lee, Betsy. Judy Blume's Story. Minneapolis: Dillon Press, 1981.
Nault, Jennifer. Judy Blume. Mankato, MN: Weigl Publishers, 2002.
Weidt, Maryann N. Presenting Judy Blume. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
"Blume, Judy." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/blume-judy
"Blume, Judy." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/blume-judy
Perhaps the most popular contemporary author of works for upper elementary to junior high school readers, Judy Blume (born 1938) is the creator of frank, often humorous stories which focus on the emotional and social concerns of suburban adolescents.
Although Blume is best known for her fiction for adolescents, she began her career by writing books for younger children, an audience she still continues to address; Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing (1972) and Superfudge (1980), two entertaining tales about ten-year-old Peter and his incorrigible baby brother, Fudge, are especially popular with readers. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (1970) depicts eleven-year-old Margaret's apprehensions about starting her period and choosing her own religion. At the time of the book's publication, Blume was praised for her warm and funny recreation of childhood feelings and conversation, but was criticized for her forthright references to the human body and its processes. Margaret is now considered a groundbreaking work due to the candor with which Blume presents previously taboo subjects. Forever (1975), in which Blume relates the particulars of her eighteen-year-old heroine's initial sexual experience, created an even greater furor. Despite the fact that it was published as an adult book, protestors pointed out that Blume's name and characteristically uncomplicated prose style attracted a vulnerable preteen audience who could be influenced by the intimate details of the novel. In Tiger Eyes (1981), Blume relates the story of how fifteen-year-old Davey adjusts to her father's murder. Hailed by many critics as Blume's finest work for her successful handling of a complex plot, Tiger Eyes includes such issues as alcoholism, suicide, anti-intellectualism, and violence. Letters to Judy (1986) was a promoted as a response to the voluminous amount of mail that Blume receives from her readers. Selecting a number of representatives letters to reprint anonymously with accompanying comments, she created the book for a dual purpose: to enable children to see that they are not alone and to make parents more aware of their children's needs.
Reviewers commend Blume for her honesty, warmth, compassion, and wit, praising her lack of condescension, superior observation of childhood, and strong appeal to children. Critics are strongly divided as to the success of Blume's plots, characterization, writing style, and nonjudgmental approach; they object to her uninhibited language and permissive attitude toward sexuality, and complain that her cavalier treatment of love, death, pain, and religion trivializes young people and the literature written for them. However, most commentators agree that Blume accurately captures the speech, emotions, and private thoughts of children, for whom she has made reading both easy and enjoyable.
Children's Literature Review, Gale, Volume 2, 1976, Volume 15, 1988.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 12, 1980, Volume 30, 1984.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 52: American Writers for Children since 1960: Fiction, Gale, 1986.
Fisher, Emma and Justin Wintle, The Pied Pipers, Paddington Press, 1975.
Gleasner, Diana, Breakthrough: Women in Writing, Walker, 1980.
Lee, Betsey, Judy Blume's Story, Dillon Press, 1981.
Weidt, Maryann, Presenting Judy Blume, Twayne, 1989. □
"Judy Blume." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/judy-blume
"Judy Blume." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/judy-blume