The picture book Judy Blume: Are You There Reader? It’s Me, Judy! details how the Jewish author became known for writing her way through controversy and censorship to become a pioneer who helped make it okay for kids and teens to discuss their everyday concerns.
The biography traces the author’s life and acknowledges that Blume came from a Jewish family. Her family followed some traditions but was not particularly religious. “Her father had six brothers and sisters, most of whom died during Judy’s childhood. Her family “was always sitting Shiva” — the week-long Jewish tradition of mourning a close relative. Religion was so confusing.” Those confusing and upsetting experiences were clearly a springboard for Blume’s questions that she answered in her stories.
The book, along with the whimsical drawings, acknowledges that Blume grew up during a stifling time when children, especially girls had to be “Little Miss Perfect.” Not particularly religious, Blume had a way of telling engaging stories about things people don’t always like to talk about but really want to understand. Blume’s take is close to Midrash — stories that respond to contemporary problems making connections between new Jewish realities. In Blume’s case she helped generations of people make sense of their place in an often unjust world.
The book has important lessons as it explains Blume as a writer who has faced ridicule and rejection. Her ability to produce frank and funny books, gave Blume an important role in people’s lives. Picture book author Kathleen Krull explains that Blume receives 2,000 letters a month. Much of the mail is from fans but a lot are from people critical of Blume’s subject matter. As a result Blume’s books have raised controversy and been banned.
Told as a high concept/low vocabulary biography, Krull explains that Blume has used her celebrity and the controversy surrounding her books to promote freedom of the press, a more open society, and to be a champion for equality for women and girls.
Recommended for ages 6 – 9.
Dina Weinstein is a Richmond, Virginia-based writer.