Top 100 Children’s Novels #74: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
This was a story that Mom and I shared. She read it to me at bedtime during my 4th-grade year. – Hilary Writt
In her June/July 1999 American Libraries article “Places I Never Meant to Be: A Personal View”, Ms. Blume says of writing this story, “I wrote Are You There God ? It’s Me, Margaret right out of my own experiences and feelings when I was in 6th grade. Controversy wasn’t on my mind. I wanted only to write what I knew to be true. I wanted to write the best, the most honest books I could, the kinds of books I would have liked to read when I was younger. If someone had told me then I would become one of the most banned writers in America, I’d have laughed.”
The synopsis from the publisher reads, “No one ever told Margaret Simon that eleven-going-on- twelve would be such a hard age. When her family moves to New Jersey, she has to adjust to life in the suburbs, a different school, and a whole new group of friends. Margaret knows she needs someone to talk to about growing up-and it’s not long before she’s found a solution. ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I can’t wait until two o’clock God. That’s when our dance starts. Do you think I’ll get Philip Leroy for a partner? It’s not so much that I like him as a person God, but as a boy he’s very handsome. And I’d love to dance with him… just once or twice. Thank you God.’ ”
This was Ms. Blume’s third book (#1 was The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo and #2 Iggie’s House), but her first big seller. It was a relative hit when it first came out, but according to Twentieth Century Young Adult Writers, “it was only when the book appeared in paperback in 1974 that the hundreds of letters became thousands, all of them from readers who saw themselves and their lives reflected perfectly in Margaret’s story.”
It was probably also the earliest Blume title that has been routinely challenged and banned. American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction says that, “Attempts at censoring the book have continued throughout its lifetime; the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom reports that it has been charged with ‘denigrating religion and parental authority’ and being ’sexually offensive and amoral’.” Ms. Blume says of her first experiences with banning, “. . . one night the phone rang and a woman asked if I was the one who had written that book. When I replied that I was, she called me a communist and hung up. I never did figure out if she equated communism with breast development or religion.”
And talk about divisive reviews!
Said Publishers Weekly, “With sensitivity and humor, Judy Blume has captured the joys, fears, and uncertainty that surround a young girl approaching adolescence.”
But Book Window didn’t like it one bit, saying that the descriptions of Margaret’s period were “excessive, almost obsessive … when the author rhapsodizes about the wearing of a sanitary napkin, the effect is banal in the extreme … Suddenly a sensitive, amusing novel has been reduced to the level of some of advertising blurb in the ‘confidential’ section of a teenage magazine.”
Education Digest loved its “exploration of previously untouched aspects of childhood and adolescent experience.”
Whereas The Times Literary Supplement said that, “Margaret’s private talks with God are insufferably self-conscious and arch.”
The New Statesman finally conceded that it was, “admittedly gripping stuff no doubt for those wrestling with–or curious about future–bodily changes….”
And now… *drumroll please* … every single cover I could find at midnight last night before I collapsed from exhaustion!
And I probably will have to include this video as well. It’s a recent one where Judy’s mentions in pop culture were strung together on a single reel. Includes the LOST moment I like so much involving this book:
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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