Children’s/Young Adult Literature:
The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, 1969
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, 1970
Iggie’s House, 1970
Freckle Juice, 1971
Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, 1971
It’s Not the End of the World, 1972
Otherwise Known as Shelia the Great, 1972
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, 1972
Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, 1977
Tiger Eyes, 1981
The Pain and the Great One, 1984
Smart Women, 1984
Just as Long as We’re Together, 1987
Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson, 1993
Summer Sisters, 1998
Double Fudge, 2002
Judy Blume (blewm), born Judy Sussman, ranks among the most popular and acclaimed writers of juvenile and young adult fiction. With the novels Wifey and Summer Sisters, she has also made significant inroads into the adult fiction market. Her works have sold in excess of forty million copies worldwide, indicating an appeal and influence that expands far beyond the parameters of “children’s” writing. However, much of Blume’s notoriety has been fueled by the controversy her books often generate. Relative to her contemporaries, Blume is often outspokenly frank, particularly about the issues and dilemmas surrounding adolescent sexual identity. Likewise, her books are often unapologetic and free of the judgmental and moralistic trappings that typically characterize juvenile fiction–something her fans laud as courageous and innovative but her detractors condemn as amoral. Whereas many children’s writers focus on the consequences of sexual behavior among young people, Blume’s fiction tends instead to focus directly on the experience of such behavior. What may be gained or lost along an adolescent’s path to physical or sexual maturity is usually left to the reader.
Blume grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Miami Beach, Florida, the daughter of middle-class parents who instilled a love of books in her at an early age. After graduating from New York University, Blume married and gave birth to two children for whom she began writing stories as amusement. Throughout the 1960’s, however, her skills and interest in writing developed. Her first children’s book, The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, was accepted for publication in 1969. Blume’s second book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, established her as a major voice in juvenile fiction. The New York Times recognized it as one of the outstanding children’s books of 1970, and Education Digest praised it as an “exploration of previously untouched aspects of childhood and adolescent experience.” It was one of the first children’s books to deal candidly with previously taboo issues like the onset of menstruation and sexual awareness.
Nonetheless, the novel was not without its critics, and for reasons beyond its unprecedented frankness. Blume has often been accused of presenting controversial issues in a way that seems, to some, more patronizing and gratuitous than candid and innovative. For example, with respect to Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret one reviewer thought that “when the author rhapsodises about the wearing of a sanitary napkin, the effect is banal in the extreme, and disbelief is total.”
Forever is perhaps Blume’s most controversial and widely discussed novel. Blume asserts that in it she “set out to write a book that didn’t equate sex with punishment. . . . At age fourteen [my daughter] asked me to write a book in which ‘they do it and nothing awful happens.’” This ambitious goal provoked a wide array of reactions to the novel, which treaded new waters with its graphic depiction of adolescent sexuality. One reviewer called the book “a manufactured sex manual thinly disguised as a novel,” while another warned that it “titillates and stimulates children to the point they could be prematurely awakened sexually.” Such outcry has caused Forever to remain one of the most frequently censored novels of the last several decades. However, the book remains popular and widely appreciated by adolescents, who often find its candor affirmative and reassuring. As the School Library Journal put it, Forever “addresses teenagers’ feelings, sexual and otherwise, to one point: don’t worry, you’re normal.”
The controversies surrounding Blume’s fiction have not, however, deterred her from continuing to grow as a writer. She has written a number of novels also embraced by adult audiences, including Wifey and Summer Sisters, both of which were well-received, particularly by her fans. Likewise, she has continued to write for children as well, with Double Fudge, the third in her enormously popular “Fudge” series, which also includes Superfudge and Fudge-a-mania.