With a career spanning over fifty years, Judy Blume is a force in children's fiction. Her earnest portrayals of life for teens and pre-teens have made her one of the most beloved authors writing today. Her books continue to be reprinted and updated as even those written decades ago resonate for children today. However, her dedication to portraying real issues pre-teens and teens face has often led to her books being banned. Judy Blume is consistently placed on lists of most banned writers. Join us today as we take a look at some of Judy Blume's best and most banned novels for children.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
"She said, "I must—I must—I must increase my bust.” She said it over and over. We copied her movements and chanted with her. “We must—we must—we must increase our bust!”
Blume's most popular novel, Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret, is also her most banned. This middle-grade novel tells the story of Margaret, who has recently moved to New Jersey with her family. She takes on a school project on the subject of religion. This topic interests her because religion isn't a major factor in their home due to her parents' interfaith marriage. Throughout the book, Margaret deals with preteen issues such as bras, menstruation, crushes, and friendship, all while trying to determine whether or not she prefers her mother's Christian faith or her father's Jewish faith. When a visit from her estranged maternal grandparents brings tensions to a head, Margaret abandons her religion project, though by the final chapter, she starts menstruating (which is a great relief to her since her friends started before, he and she felt abnormal) and resumes her relationship and talks with God. The frank discussion of menstruation and religion is what often leads to this novel being banned. For many pre-teens, however, these topics are what make this book an enduring favorite. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret has recently been adapted into a film starring Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates.
“There are some people who just make you want to see how far you can go.”
Blume's 1974 novel Blubber stands out on this list because the main character Jill is a bully. The story focuses on Jill becoming friends with two popular girls in her class. To fit in, she helps them taunt one of their classmates, Wendy, who they cruelly nicknamed "Blubber." Jill continues acting out to fit in with her new friends by making fun of her classmates, pranking her teachers, and getting into trouble. Eventually, she is pushed too far when she stands up to her new friends, and they refer to her best friend using a racial slur. The tables turn, and Jill becomes the butt of all the classroom jokes. Eventually, tensions in their classroom boil over, the popular girls are turned against one another, the leader is deposed, and their class returns to an awkward new normal free of bullying. While the novel deals with the very serious issue of bullying, it is often banned because much of the bullying behavior from many students goes unpunished.
"I wanted to tell him that I will never be sorry for loving him. That in a way I still do - that maybe I always will. I'll never regret one single thing we did together because what we had was very special. Maybe if we were ten years older it would have worked out differently. Maybe. I think it's just that I'm not ready for forever.”
Forever… is Judy Blume's most challenged novel. With the target audience skewing a little older than other books on this list, this novel focuses on two high school seniors, Katherine and Michael, who meet at a New Year's Eve party and begin a relationship. Eventually, the couple decides to have sex. Unique for the time, the novel portrays this as a decision they embark on responsibility, considering health, feelings, consent, and birth control options. While this is the novel's strong point, it’s often the reason for its frequent banning. The novel ends with Katherine and Michael growing apart when they are separated for the summer.
Do normal people touch their bodies before they go to sleep, and it is all right to do that?
Blume’s 1973 model, Deenie tells the story of a beautiful thirteen-year-old girl whose mother urges her to become a model though she isn't sure that’s what she wants and doesn’t enjoy so much emphasis put on her appearance. When she is diagnosed with scoliosis and has to wear a back brace for four years, Deenie struggles with reconciling her new reality with her mother's perceptions of her and how she projects those perceptions onto Deenie herself. Deenie is frequently banned due to mentions of teen sexuality and masturbation. However, the discussion of these topics as well as ableism, parental pressures, and the dangers of society's emphasis on appearance made this book an excellent read for young adults.