I would like to say that I was looking through my shelves and came across my books by Judy Blume, that would be more normal, but I wasn’t. I was in fact in the shower, the place where inspiration has often struck for many a thing. So, my attentions oddly turned to Judy Blume. I began to think about her books that I loved reading, some of them even over and over and it got me wondering about their relevance for today’s children. So that’s what I am going to explore and answer within this article.
Judy Blume, the American author who many children in the 80s and 90s were clamouring to read, not just in the US, but also the UK. She has written several books crossing all age groups. There are books for young children, teenagers/young adults and adults. The question is: are her books still relevant to today’s youthful readers in 2018 and beyond?
All of her stories have something in common with the contemporary, more newly published books that are read today. That is they all have universal themes of issues, friendship, family and what it is to be growing up into a teenager/young adult and finding your way in the world, with so much going on in life. They also have strong, but believable characters that can be easily related to.
These issues aren’t just universal, but still exist today. Take Blubber for example. A book about a girl who joins a new school and happens to be overweight and yet endures being bullied terribly over her appearance. This still goes on in today’s society. The book is also about building resilience and courage to tell someone, to a certain extent as well as friendship. This too is useful for children to read today. Bullying still happens in today’s society!
The Fudge series, starting with Fourth Grade None and ending with Superfudge will still be found as being fun for children to read today. Children still get up to mischief, have friends and family. Her character, Sheila, within this series also has a book of her own called Sheila the Great has themes of friendship and also that feeling of perfection, even though you know you’re not and yet that’s what you feel you have to project to the world. Children to different degrees, still have these feelings as they try to find their way in life and feel that need to impress all the time. They have in the past and I dare say they will into the future too.
Just As Long as We are Together, it’s sequel: Here’s to You Rachel Robinson and Starring Sally J. Freedman all have historical aspects within them. The difference that Just As Long as We are Together and Here’s to You Rachel Robinson are written in the present time. Well. the 80’s anyway, but with historical references and race relations, especially within Iggie’s House. The themes throughout them are those of best friends, family and education from a teenager’s point of view. It’s Not the End of the World tackles issues surrounding a family breaking-up and moving ever closer to divorce and all the emotions. Parents still divorce and children still try to get their fairytale ending. All these books show family and friend issues, which still exist in similar ways as today.
Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, tackles growing up. It’s about forming secret clubs to talk about things that seem to matter an awful lot when you’re a girl coming of age, such as boys and the changing body. It also has a focus on friendships, family and religion. In this case the Jewish and Christian faiths, interfaith marriages and falling in and out of a relationship with God. Many children, young people and even adults have questions, doubts and curiosity. The book also tackles themes that present in lots of teens/young adults such as anxieties and insecurities about growing up. The books Deenie and Forever are also about the coming of age. Deenie, however shows it from a different point of view. It is primarily about a girl who has scoliosis and how she feels about having a back brace and seeing a councillor as well as tackling growing up. It is also about friendships, puberty, discovering relationships and in Deenie’s case, if a boy would still fancy her or not.
Everyone comes of age and everyone starts growing up, no matter what their life circumstances are.
So, returning to my initial question of: are Judy Blume’s children to pre-teen to teenage/young adult books still relevant for today? The answer is absolutely YES, they are. these topics and issues are always going to be around and even though they were primarily first published between the 70’s and 80’s, they’ve essentially not dated. Alright there aren’t the mobile phones or tablets that we have today, but the topics, the discussions, the issues, the coming of age are all exactly the same as what this age group have right now and future generations will too. They are recurring themes in nearly all of her contemporaries books, in some form or another, be it an actual coming of age book, or fantasy and even some mystery books have some of these themes. That is because they tackle many aspects a young girl, progressing and transitioning into famale adulthood will deal with at somepoint or another in their lives. They also deal with other topics too that are universal and may be witnessed, if not experienced. In some sense, all the characters, even though written a few decades ago, are still going to be just as relatable today as they were when they were first conceived. There are strong, believable characters, there is joy, anguish and compassion to be felt within the pages. There are also lessons to be learnt within those pages, even for today’s society. So, even though the cover-art/book jackets have changed over the years, after each publication, the themes of life in reality have not. Each theme is still being lived out by someone, somewhere in the world, everyday and every year.
So, if you’ve not tried one of these books by Judy Blume yet, perhaps because they’re not on the number 1 spot or because of when they were first published, then think about them again and them a go. These are books that will always stand the test of time and the pre-teen and teenage/young adult groups will always be able to relate to the contents of her books.
Judy Blume’s books can be purchased in Amazon, Book People and other bookshops. Occasionally they can be borrowed in your local library.
They can be bought as a box-set, individually and some stories feature in 3-in-1 books.