In celebration of Children's Books Week, the second review of the Blume books for this week.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume
Children's Books ; (149 pgs)
NENE AWARE (1975)
Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things are pink. She's just moved from New York City to the suburbs, and she's anxious to fit in with her new friends, so when they form a secret club to talk about boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong. But none of them can believe Margaret doesn't have a religion. And Margaret can't tell them the truth: that she can talk to God anyway, about everything that's on her mind - including Phillip Leroy, the best-looking boy in sixth grade. Margare is funny and real. So are her most personal thoughts and feelings. (from the book itself)
When I was reading this book, it felt very much like I was reading about Jill, the main character in Blubber. Judy Blume stays true to her writing style in these two book. I guess, from this perspective, it was hard to distinguish the two stories as distinct and separate. Margaret is still unique and a universal character for children. Just like the issue with bullying in Blubber, in Are you there God? the book deals with childhood moments such as boy crushes, becoming a woman and getting the period, moving to a new school and fitting in, and making friends. It's Margaret's journey and how she finds herself asking God to help her get through everything, or help her understand what things mean.
Additionally, Margaret comes from a mixed family of religious backgrounds. Her father is Jewish and her mother is Christian. She is neither. Her friend Nancy is in disbelief about it, wondering how she can just be nothing. People are one or the other. The conversation she has with Nancy inclines her to think about and explore more what she might choose to be, a Jew or a Christian.
She faces the expectations of her community and friends, especially that of her mother. All kids go to Sunday school, she doesn't. Her mother is always talking to her about when she'll be a teenager and how she should stand up straight, wash her face, and have good hygiene. She also worries she'll never be a good kisser because her friend Nancy tells her she should have been practicing (on a pillow), and she had no idea she should have been (this is pretty funny in a way).
The book as a whole didn't really strike my full interest. However, there were parts here and there that I really enjoyed, one especially. When their new teacher arrives, he introduces himself in a very odd way to the children: "Now then... uh... we know my name. I'll tell you something about myself. Uh... I'm twenty four years old. I'm uh... a graduate of Columbia Teachers College and uh... this is my first teaching position. Now that you know about me, I want to uh... find out about you. So, if you will copy these six phrases off the board and then complete them I'd uh... appreciate it." I really had to empathize with this guy. I have found myself once or twice doing this in the classrooms when I first started working for the education districts. It's tough to face children, let alone make them feel comfortable and even fear you a little bit, too. I literary laughed out loud when I read this part. I can relate.
All in all, another great book from Judy Blume. Simple yet effective, and most of all enjoyable.