Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret, Judy Blume

It’s Banned Books Week! And what’s Banned Books Week without Ms. Judy Blume? Read at your own risk!  🙂 

Synopsis: Margaret just moved from NYC to New Jersey because her parents want to lessen her grandmother’s influence on her. She makes a few new friends and they call themselves the Pre-Teen Sensations.  They basically obsess over getting their periods and growing their boobs. They have a boy book, listing who they’d like to kiss sorta thing. They make fun of Laura Danker, who they’re completely jealous of because she’s gorgeous with big boobs. Nancy, the ringleader of the group, says Laura goes behind the A&P and makes out with boys.  So, that’s that, we know not to like Laura.

Margaret has no religion. Her dad’s family is Jewish, her mom’s family Christian, and Margaret can pick when she grows up. She decides to try and find out who she is now instead. This becomes her personal project for her sixth grade class. She tries out the synagogue, she tries out the church, she even follows Laura to confession but has no idea what to do/what they’re saying, etc. She counts hats.

The religious thing gets intense when mom sent a Christmas/Holiday card to her parents, who disowned her years ago due to her marriage to a Jewish guy. They decide to show up and push the religious issue, which makes Margaret decide to forget about God. After all, He gave Nancy her period (in a hilarious fashion– she lied to show off and then flipped out in public when it was really there) and didn’t even have the decency to let Margaret’s boobs grow a little.  She finally, finally gets it, and she’s a happy camper.

Commentary: 

  • Yes, yes. This here, folks, is the book that made it okay to talk about periods and God in the same sentence. This is the book that glorified “the monthly” for children ready to hit puberty.  The first one is the only exciting one, kids. Oh, I guess that and if you’re hoping you’re not pregnant.
  • Laura tells off Margaret for telling her the rumor that she goes behind the A&P, because she doesn’t, and she can’t help her body. YES, the girl has “you know whats.”  She probably hates them just as much as you’re jealous of them.  She’s not going with a bunch of guys just because she has them.  FACT:  girls who develop early are bullied more.  I appreciate that Blume made sure this confrontation was in the book, because it’s truth. I think seeing it this way may make kids less afraid of the Lauras and more leary of the Nancys of the world.
    • Funny story: In my Child Dev class, where we learned this fact, one of the boys said, “I would think girls who developed early would be bullies since it’s like, ‘I have them you don’t.'”  I just looked at him and simply said, “Nope!” and left it at that. Everyone kinda giggled and we moved on. They figured I was probably an expert.
      •  If you’re under that impression… some girls are bullies, some girls aren’t; some girls have them, some don’t.  They don’t have a direct correlation exactly.  But  when you’re trying to grow comfortable with your body during puberty, you’re most likely not making fun of the kid who’s still in their “kid body”, for lack of a better term.
      • Clearly we know to whom I relate…
  • The religious battle is kind of interesting. I think it’s great that Margaret prays without a designated religion. I think it’s sad that her parents flip out when she wants to learn more about religion, because that’s a piece of who you are, and if she wants to search, let her. (They finally do, but reluctantly.) I think it’s also sad that the grandparents try to pull her one way or the other.
    • She comes to the conclusion she should have searched earlier. Wouldn’t that have made her parents happy.
    •  I hate her Christian grandparents. Yep, I’m a Christian. I don’t push it on everyone because hey, it’s something I’m working on (the whole love your neighbor, who’s my neighbor deal). But here’s the thing: if someone waltzes into your life after years of ignoring you and actually disowning you, and then makes a big deal about church/Jesus in your life, most people would react like Margaret did.
    • Oh, to grow up in a world where children’s church is a foreign concept…  Margaret had no idea what was going on.  I think instead of going to a service, she may have liked learning in a class setting, like Hebrew school or something.
Class Stuff:
Grades: upper 4th?-6 (according to Random House, ages 8-12).
I’m pretty certain I read it kinda young, as I did an author report on Judy Blume in fourth or fifth grade.  May or may not have been the book that made a family member super stoked about becoming a lady at age 8.
Grade:A-/B+  great book, captures that age really well.

Challenge-worthy?  
 Ms. Blume is blunt. She doesn’t shy away from pre-pubescent girls who desperately want to be women. I suppose the whole modern view of religion is pretty interesting, pick who you want to be sort of thing. I don’t think it’s enough to be censored.
This book glorifies “menstroo-ation” as the mark of womanhood, which anyone who’s had a few shakes her head at, but it also celebrates growing up. It’s refreshing in a way, to read an honest and pretty innocent book about the excitement of “when will I?…” There are a ton of milestones in the transition from kid to teenager, and although we like to complain about our teenage years, it’s a pretty cool time. Sure, it’s annoying, but it’s part of what makes us stronger adults. If this were real life, I guarantee you that Laura may be self-conscious for a long time, but she’ll be the first to hit any guy who tries anything she doesn’t want. I guarantee that Margaret will keep searching for God and will find both God and herself in the process.  Philip Leroy and Nancy Wheeler may still be doofuses, but who knows, they could grow up. This is why I teach this age group– they’re goofy, they’re dramatic, but mostly, they’re sweet, sincere, and when they get through their issues, they’re going to be people you’re proud to know.
The only thing that weirds me out about this book is that Margaret knows that her dad gets Playboy.  I’m not bothered by the fact that she borrowed one to see what she was aspiring to look like, nor am I bothered that they borrowed a medical book from Janie’s dad to see what the male body looked like. I figure the curiosity is natural, and they’d find out in “puberty class” anyway. It’s just kind of weird that it was an open secret at Margaret’s house.
Would I fight to keep it in my classroom? Probably.  Really, it would depend on my grade level. Fourth grade, I’d be okay with asking for a permission form or something if parents aren’t comfortable with it. By fifth and sixth, I don’t mind putting it on the shelf.  After all, by then they’re having the puberty class by then. This is way more interesting! 🙂
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1 Comment

Filed under Challenged/Banned Book, Uncategorized

One response to “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret, Judy Blume

  1. Pingback: Forever, Judy Blume | Class Bookworm

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