Perhaps the most popular contemporary author of works for upper elementary to junior high school readers, Judy Blume (born 1938) is the creator of frank, often humorous stories which focus on the emotional and social concerns of suburban adolescents.
Although Blume is best known for her fiction for adolescents, she began her career by writing books for younger children, an audience she still continues to address; Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing (1972) and Superfudge (1980), two entertaining tales about ten-year-old Peter and his incorrigible baby brother, Fudge, are especially popular with readers. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (1970) depicts eleven-year-old Margaret's apprehensions about starting her period and choosing her own religion. At the time of the book's publication, Blume was praised for her warm and funny recreation of childhood feelings and conversation, but was criticized for her forthright references to the human body and its processes. Margaret is now considered a groundbreaking work due to the candor with which Blume presents previously taboo subjects. Forever (1975), in which Blume relates the particulars of her eighteen-year-old heroine's initial sexual experience, created an even greater furor. Despite the fact that it was published as an adult book, protestors pointed out that Blume's name and characteristically uncomplicated prose style attracted a vulnerable preteen audience who could be influenced by the intimate details of the novel. In Tiger Eyes (1981), Blume relates the story of how fifteen-year-old Davey adjusts to her father's murder. Hailed by many critics as Blume's finest work for her successful handling of a complex plot, Tiger Eyes includes such issues as alcoholism, suicide, anti-intellectualism, and violence. Letters to Judy (1986) was a promoted as a response to the voluminous amount of mail that Blume receives from her readers. Selecting a number of representatives letters to reprint anonymously with accompanying comments, she created the book for a dual purpose: to enable children to see that they are not alone and to make parents more aware of their children's needs.
Reviewers commend Blume for her honesty, warmth, compassion, and wit, praising her lack of condescension, superior observation of childhood, and strong appeal to children. Critics are strongly divided as to the success of Blume's plots, characterization, writing style, and nonjudgmental approach; they object to her uninhibited language and permissive attitude toward sexuality, and complain that her cavalier treatment of love, death, pain, and religion trivializes young people and the literature written for them. However, most commentators agree that Blume accurately captures the speech, emotions, and private thoughts of children, for whom she has made reading both easy and enjoyable.
Further Reading on Judy Blume
Children's Literature Review, Gale, Volume 2, 1976, Volume 15, 1988.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 12, 1980, Volume 30, 1984.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 52: American Writers for Children since 1960: Fiction, Gale, 1986.
Fisher, Emma and Justin Wintle, The Pied Pipers, Paddington Press, 1975.
Gleasner, Diana, Breakthrough: Women in Writing, Walker, 1980.
Lee, Betsey, Judy Blume's Story, Dillon Press, 1981.
Weidt, Maryann, Presenting Judy Blume, Twayne, 1989.