Born February 12, 1938, in Elizabeth, NJ; daughter of Rudolph (a dentist) and Esther Sussman; married John M. Blume (an attorney), August 15, 1959 (divorced, 1975); married Thomas A. Kitchens (a physicist), 1976 (divorced, 1978); married George Cooper (a writer), June 6, 1987; children: (first marriage) Randy Lee (daughter), Lawrence Andrew; (third marriage) Amanda (stepdaughter). Education: New York University, B.A., 1961. Religion: Jewish. Memberships: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (member of board), Authors Guild (member of council), National Coalition against Censorship (council of advisors), Key West Literary Seminar (member of board). Addresses: Home: Key West, FL; New York, NY. Office: Tashmoo Productions, 1841 Broadway, Ste. 711A, New York, NY 10023. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10022. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writer of juvenile and adult fiction. Founder and trustee of KIDS Fund, 1981.
Best Books for Children selection, New York Times, 1970, Nene Award, Hawaii Association of School Librarians/Hawaii Library Association, 1975, Young Hoosier Book Award, Association for Indiana Media Educators, 1976, and North Dakota Children's Choice Award, Children's Round Table of the North Dakota Library Association, 1979, all for Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Charlie May Swann Children's Book Award, Arkansas Elementary School Council, 1972, Young Readers Choice Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association, and Sequoyah Children's Book Award, Oklahoma Library Association, both 1975, Arizona Young Readers Award, Arizona State University and University of Arizona--Tempe, Massachusetts Children's Book Award, Education Department of Salem State College, Georgia Children's Book Award, College of Education of the University of Georgia, and South Carolina Children's Book Award, South Carolina Association of School Librarians, all 1977, Rhode Island Library Association Award, 1978, North Dakota Children's Choice Award, Children's Round Table of the North Dakota Library Association, and West Australian Young Readers' Book Award, Library Association of Australia, both 1980, United States Army in Europe Kinderbuch Award and Great Stone Face Award, New Hampshire Library Council, both 1981, all for Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing; Outstanding Books of the Year selection, New York Times, 1974, Arizona Young Readers Award, Arizona State University and University of Arizona--Tempe, and Young Readers Choice Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association, both 1977, and North Dakota Children's Choice Award, Children's Round Table of the North Dakota Library Association, 1983, all for Blubber; South Carolina Children's Book Award, South Carolina Association of School Librarians, 1978, for Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great; Michigan Young Reader's Award, Michigan Council of Teachers, 1980, for Freckle Juice; Texas Bluebonnet list, 1980, CRABery Award, Michigan Young Reader's Award, Michigan Council of Teachers, and International Reading Association Children's Choice Award, all 1981, Buckeye Children's Book Award, State Library of Ohio, Nene Award, Hawaii Association of School Librarians and Hawaii Library Association, Sue Hefley Book Award, Louisiana Association of School Libraries, United States Army in Europe Kinderbuch Award, West Australian Young Readers' Book Award, Library Association of Australia, North Dakota Children's Choice Award, Children's Round Table of the North Dakota Library Association, Colorado Children's Book Award, University of Colorado, Georgia Children's Book Award, College of Education of the University of Georgia, Tennessee Children's Choice Book Award, Texas Bluebonnet Award, Texas Association of School Librarians and the Children's Round Table, and Utah Children's Book Award, Children's Literature Association of Utah, all 1982, Northern Territory Young Readers' Book Award, Young Readers Choice Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association, Garden State Children's Book Award, New Jersey Library Association, Iowa Children's Choice Award, Iowa Educational Media Association, Arizona Young Readers' Award, Arizona State University and University of Arizona--Tempe, Young Reader Medal, California Reading Association, and Young Hoosier Book Award, Association for Indiana Media Educators, all 1983, Land of Enchantment Book Award, New Mexico Library Association and New Mexico State International Reading Association, 1984, and Sunshine State Young Reader's Award, Florida Association for Media in Education, 1985, all for Superfudge; CRABery Award, 1982, Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, Vermont Department of Libraries and the Vermont Congress of Parents and Teachers, Buckeye Children's Book Award, State Library of Ohio, Young Reader Medal, California Reading Association, and American Book Award finalist, Association of American Publishers, all 1983, Blue Spruce Colorado Young Adult Book Award, Colorado Library Association, and Iowa Children's Choice Award, Iowa Educational Media Association, both 1985, all for Tiger Eyes; Children's Books of the Year selection, Child Study Association of America, 1985, for The Pain and the Great One; Best Books for Young Adults selection, American Library Association, 1986, for Letters to Judy; Young Reader Medal, California Reading Association, Iowa Children's Choice Award, Iowa Educational Media Association, Nene Award, Hawaii Association of School Librarians and the Hawaii Library Association, Nevada Young Readers Award, Nevada Library Association, Sunshine State Young Reader's Award, Florida Association for Media in Education, Pennsylvania Young Reader's Award, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, Michigan Readers Choice Award, Michigan Reading Association, all 1993, all for Fudge-a-Mania; Parent's Choice Award, 1993, for Here's to You, Rachel Robinson. Golden Archer Award, 1974; Today's Woman Award, Council of Cerebral Palsy Auxiliary, Nassau County, 1981; Outstanding Mother Award, 1982; Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, Favorite Author--Children's Choice Award, Milner Award, Friends of the Atlanta Public Library, for children's favorite living author, and Jeremiah Ludington Memorial Award, all 1983; Carl Sandburg Freedom to Read Award, Chicago Public Library, 1984; Civil Liberties Award, Atlanta American Civil Liberties Union, and John Rock Award, Center for Population Options, both 1986; D.H.L., Kean College, 1987; Excellence in the Field of Literature Award, New Jersey Education Association, 1987; South Australian Youth Media Award for Best Author, South Australian Association for Media Education, 1988; Most Admired Author, Heroes of Young America Poll, 1989; National Hero Award, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, 1992; Dean's Award, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1993; Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults, American Library Association, 1996, for lifetime achievement writing for teens; honorary D.F.A. from Mount Holyoke College, 2003; Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, National Book Foundation, 2004; Library of Congress Living Legends Award.
CHILDREN'S AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION
- The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, illustrated by Lois Axeman, Reilly & Lee (Chicago, IL), 1969, revised edition, illustrated by Amy Aitken, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1981, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004, revised edition, illustrated by Irene Trivas, 1991, edition illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2014.
- Iggie's House, Bradbury (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1970, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004.
- Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Bradbury (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1970, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004.
- Then Again, Maybe I Won't, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1971, reprinted, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2009.
- Freckle Juice, Four Winds (New York, NY), 1971, reprinted, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2014.
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, illustrated by Roy Doty, Dutton (New York, NY), 1972, reprinted, Puffin (New York, NY), 2003.
- Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Dutton (New York, NY), 1972, reprinted, Puffin (New York, NY), 2003.
- It's Not the End of the World, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1972, reprinted, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2009.
- Deenie, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1973, reprinted, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2009.
- Blubber, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1974, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004.
- Forever ..., Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1975, reprinted, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2007.
- Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1977, reprinted, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2004.
- Superfudge, Dutton (New York, NY), 1980, reprinted, Puffin (New York, NY), 2003.
- Tiger Eyes (for young adults), Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1981, reprinted, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2009.
- The Pain and the Great One (also see below), Bradbury (Scarsdale, NY), 1984, reprinted, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2014.
- Just as Long as We're Together (also see below), Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1987.
- Fudge-a-Mania, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.
- Here's to You, Rachel Robinson (also see below), Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.
- Double Fudge, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
- A Judy Blume Collection (contains Deenie, It's Not the End of the World, and Then Again, Maybe I Won't), Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
- BFF*: Two Novels by Judy Blume (contains Just as Long as We're Together and Here's to You, Rachel Robinson), Random House (New York, NY), 2007.
- Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, illustrated by James Stevenson, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2007.
- Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One, illustrated by James Stevenson, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2008.
- Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One, illustrated by James Stevenson, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2008.
- Friend or Fiend? With the Pain and the Great One, illustrated by James Stevenson, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2009.
- Wifey, Putnam (New York, NY), 1978, reprinted, 2004.
- Smart Women, Putnam (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, 2004.
- Summer Sisters, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1998.
- In the Unlikely Event, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2015.
- Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You (nonfiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1986.
- The Judy Blume Memory Book (limited edition), Dell (New York, NY), 1988.
- (And producer, with son, Lawrence Blume) Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (screenplay; adapted from her novel), Barr Films, 1988.
- (Editor) Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Has also adapted and produced Tiger Eyes for film. Contributor to Free to Be ... You and Me, by Marlo Thomas and friends, 1973, expanded edition published by Running Press, 2008.
Contributor to Author Talk: Conversations with Judy Blume (and Others), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000. Author of the Judy Blume Blog. Some of Blume's works are housed in the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota.
Forever ... was adapted as a television film broadcast by Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1978; Freckle Juice was adapted as an animated film by Barr Films, 1987; the "Fudge" books were adapted by American Broadcasting Companies (ABC) as a television series, 1994-96, and on CBS, 1997; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was adapted as a play; Wifey was produced by Audio Book in 1979. Listening Library has adapted various Blume books along with teacher's guides, including Freckle Juice, 1982; Blubber, 1983; The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, 1983; and Deenie, 1983. Audiobooks adapted by Listening Library include Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, 1985; It's Not the End of the World, 1985; and The Pain and the Great One, 1985. Blume books adapted for audio by Ingram include Superfudge, 1992; Fudge-a-Mania, 1993; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, 1996; Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, 1997; and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, 1997.
"For several generations of former adolescents, Judy Blume is the reason flashlights were invented," observed Entertainment Weekly contributor Rebecca Ascher Walsh. "From the 'Fudge' books to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret to Forever ..., Blume has expertly guided huddling insomniac masses through the confusion of childhood and teenage hell into young adulthood." Since she published her first book in 1969, Blume has become one of the most popular and controversial authors for children. Her accessible, humorous style and direct, sometimes explicit treatment of youthful concerns have won her many fans--as well as critics who sometimes seek to censor her work. Nevertheless, Blume has continued to produce works that are, according to critics, both entertaining and thought-provoking. "Judy Blume has a knack for knowing what children think about and an honest, highly amusing way of writing about it," Jean Van Leeuwen stated in the New York Times Book Review. The author has also garnered countless honors for her work; in 1996 she won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults, and in 2004 Blume received the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
Many critics attribute Blume's popularity to her ability to discuss openly, realistically, and compassionately the subjects that concern her readers. Her books for younger children, such as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, and Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One deal with problems of sibling rivalry, establishing self-confidence, and social ostracism. Books for older readers, such as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Deenie, and Just as Long as We're Together consider matters of divorce, friendship, family breakups, and sexual development (including menstruation and masturbation), while Forever ... specifically deals with a young woman's first love and first sexual experience. But whatever the situation, Blume's characters confront their feelings of confusion as a start to resolving their problems. In Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, for instance, the young protagonist examines her thoughts about religion and speculates about becoming a woman. The result is a book that uses "sensitivity and humor" in capturing "the joys, fears, and uncertainty that surround a young girl approaching adolescence," Lavinia Russ wrote in Publishers Weekly.
Born in New Jersey in 1938, Blume and her older brother grew up in a home full of books. Her father, a dentist, nurtured her imagination; her mother, quieter and more introspective, encouraged her young daughter in a growing love of books and reading. Beginning in the third grade, Blume, her mother, and her brother went to live in Florida for two years in hopes of improving her brother's heath, and she was separated from her father during this time. The outgoing Blume began taking dance classes as a young child and generally excelled at school, attending an all-girls high school where she sang in the chorus and worked on the school newspaper as a features editor. Graduating from high school, she went on to Boston University for a year until a bout of mononucleosis forced her to drop out. She subsequently enrolled at New York University, where she graduated in 1961, majoring in early childhood education. During her sophomore year of college, she met her first husband, John M. Blume, a lawyer, and the couple was married during Blume's junior year. Shortly after graduation, Blume had her first child, Randy Lee, and then two years later had a son, Lawrence Andrew.
Deciding she needed a creative outlet, Blume began making up children's stories as she went about her housework, even illustrating them in crayon. Her early stories were rejected by magazines, and then, coming upon a brochure for a New York University class in writing for children and young adults, she enrolled. As part of the coursework, she wrote what became her first publication, The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, a picture book about an in-between child. The following semester, Blume took the class once more time, writing the initial draft for her second publication, Iggie's House, a children's novel about racial prejudice. The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo was published in 1969, and was called "satisfying" by Zena Sutherland in a review for Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
Blume's first two books did not, however, give any indication of the direction she would go with her third, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. In 1967, S.E. Hinton, a schoolgirl herself at the time, revolutionized the world of young-adult literature with her hard-hitting and gritty The Outsiders, a novel about class rivalry in an Oklahoma high school. But until Blume's 1970 publication of Are You There God?, the literature for younger adolescents had generally gone along its well-worn pathway of simplistic plots and happy endings. With Are You There God?, Blume broke publishing taboos by writing about such topics as a girl's period and first bra. Based on many of Blume's own adolescent experiences, the novel tells the tale of Margaret Simon and her family, who move to the suburbs in New Jersey. There she has to make new friends, and she is beset by worries about getting her period and the size of her breasts. She is also concerned about religion; born to a Christian mother and Jewish father, she is confused where she fits and thus starts visiting different churches and talking directly with God. Most reviewers praised the book's humor but decried Blume's focus on what were once unmentionables. Ann Evans, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, for example, found that Blume focused too much on Margaret's body and that her "private talks with God are insufferably self-conscious and arch." A critic for Kirkus Reviews also complained that "there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty." Children did not read the reviews; they read the book. And read it and read it. When it appeared in paperback in 1974, it attracted readers in the hundreds of thousands, and Blume began getting the deluge of letters from young readers that has persisted over the decades, thanking her for letting them know they were not alone in such thoughts.
Blume repeated the favor for young male readers with Then Again, Maybe I Won't, published in 1971, and featuring young Vic, who, like Margaret, has just moved to a new town. He is also worried about the changes that are taking place with his body; he has uncontrollable erections and worries about wet dreams. His family has also undergone a change, recently becoming more affluent. This book was not as popular as Are You There God?, but it broke similar ground in juvenile literature, making formerly taboo topics part of the subject matter of children's literature.
More problem books from Blume's early career include It's Not the End of the World, in which the twelve-year-old protagonist learns to cope with her parents' separation and divorce; Deenie, in which a beautiful thirteen-year-old girl, whose mother desperately wants her to become a model, is diagnosed with the spinal disease scoliosis; and Blubber, about childhood cruelty as expressed in taunting an overweight girl. Blume's work continued to stir up the critics and invite parental condemnation if not outright attempts--in many schools successful--at censorship. In Deenie, for example, the young girl thinks at first that her disease has been brought on by her masturbation. Despite such concerns, School Library Journal's Melinda Schroeder called Deenie a "compelling" novel.
Blume's least controversial and one of her most popular series includes the "Fudge" books, five interrelated stories that span thirty years of writing, starting off with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. That book details the trials and tribulations of Peter Warren Hatcher and his younger brother, Fudge. The brothers live in an apartment in Manhattan and undergo the usual sibling rivalry. At one point, young Fudge--rambunctious and often in trouble--swallows his older brother's turtle. In 2001 this book ranked as the third best-selling children's paperback of all time, with more than seven million copies sold. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, a spin-off of this first title, focuses on Peter's nemesis as she tries to deal with summer camp.
Blume returned to the brothers in the 1980 tale Superfudge, in which the family is joined by a baby sister, Tootsie, who complicates the boy's lives. The family has also moved to Princeton, New Jersey, in this title, and Fudge is ready to enter kindergarten. That book became Blume's best-selling hardcover edition, receiving much praise by critics. Writing in Washington Post Book World, Brigitte Weeks lauded Blume's ability to create "good clean fun," while in School Library Journal, Pamela D. Pollack commented that "no one knows the byways of the under-twelves better than Blume." Fudge-a-Mania, from 1990, continues the saga, with a reunion of all the characters in a summer house in Maine. Even when Blume returns to familiar characters, as she does in this novel and others in the series, her sequels "expand on the original and enrich it, so that [the] stories ... add up to one long and much more wonderful story," Van Leeuwen remarked in her New York Times Book Review article about Fudge-a-Mania.
Then, in 2002, to satisfy the wishes of her grandchild, Blume returned once again to Peter and Fudge in Double Fudge. In this installment, Fudge is about to begin school and is obsessed with money. His parents take him to visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC, where the family accidentally runs into distant cousins from Hawaii, the Howie Hatcher clan with their twin daughters, Fauna and Flora, and their younger brother who has the same name as Fudge: Farley Drexel Hatcher. "Peter's wry reactions to the sometimes outsize goings-on, Fudge's inimitable antics and the characters' rousing repartee contribute to the sprightly clip of this cheerful read," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. In Booklist, Gillian Engberg commended Blume on her "humor and pitch-perfect ear for sibling rivalry and family dynamics [that] will have readers giggling with recognition."
A more recent series of humorous tales was inspired by characters from one of Blume's early picture books. First published in 1984, The Pain and the Great One focuses on the relationship between a pair of squabbling siblings: third-grader Abigail, dubbed "The Great One" by her pesky younger brother, Jake, whom she refers to as "The Pain." Zena Sutherland, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, praised the "insight and wit" of that tale. Some two decades later, Blume resurrected the duo in the chapter book Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, illustrated by James Stevenson. The vignettes concern Jake's attempt to deodorize his aunt's foul-smelling canine and Abigail's efforts to host the perfect sleepover, and the pair also join forces to find a clever solution to Jake's fear of the barber. "Blume fills the duo's narratives with playful bickering, banter and baiting, while slyly and satisfyingly revealing their mutual affection," a critic in Publishers Weekly remarked. The siblings' adventures continue in Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One, which addresses a host of childhood concerns, and Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One, which focuses on a series of trips. According to Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper, "Blume gets right to the heart of children's concerns and relationships."
One way in which Blume achieves such a close affinity with her readers is through her consistent use of first-person narratives. R.A. Siegal explained in the Lion and the Unicorn: "Through this technique she succeeds in establishing intimacy and identification between character and audience. All her books read like diaries or journals and the reader is drawn in by the narrator's self-revelations." In Just as Long as We're Together, for instance, the twelve-year-old heroine "tells her story in simple, real kid language," noted Mitzi Myers in the Los Angeles Times, "inviting readers to identify with her dilemmas over girlfriends and boyfriends and that most basic of all teen problems: 'Sometimes I feel grown up and other times I feel like a little kid.'" Stephanie, Alison, and Rachel are the three characters of that title, but Stephanie takes center stage, as her parents split up and she begins to put on weight. More problems ensue as she starts to have problems with her friends, partly because of a new friendship Stephanie is forming with Alison. The girls make a return engagement--this time with the focus on Rachel--in Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, a book "filled with intelligence and humor and real understanding of the human condition," according to Claire Rosser in Kliatt. In this novel, Rachel's brother, Charles, is expelled from boarding school, much to the chagrin of Rachel's mother, a newly appointed judge. Reviewing both novels, Kliatt contributor Sherri Forgash Ginsberg concluded that "they are truly pure enjoyment."
Although Blume's work is consistently in favor with readers, it has frequently been the target of criticism. Some commentators have charged that the author's readable style, with its focus on mundane detail, lacks the depth to deal with the complex issues that she raises. In a Times Literary Supplement review of Just as Long as We're Together, for example, Jan Dalley claimed that Blume's work "is all very professionally achieved, as one would expect from this highly successful author, but Blume's concoctions are unvaryingly smooth, bland, and glutinous." But Beryl Lieff Benderly noted that the author's readability sometimes masks what the critic calls her "enormous skill as a novelist," as she wrote in a Washington Post Book World review of the same book. "While apparently presenting the bright, slangy, surface details of life in an upper-middle class suburban junior high school, she's really plumbing the meaning of honesty, friendship, loyalty, secrecy, individuality, and the painful, puzzling question of what we owe those we love."
Other reviewers have taken exception to Blume's tendency to avoid resolving her fictional dilemmas in a straightforward fashion, for her protagonists rarely finish dealing with all their difficulties by the end of the book. Many critics, however, think that it is to Blume's credit that she does not settle every problem for her readers. One such critic, Robert Lipsyte of Nation, maintained that "Blume explores the feelings of children in a nonjudgmental way. The immediate resolution of a problem is never as important as what the protagonist ... will learn about herself by confronting her life." Lipsyte explained that "the young reader gains from the emotional adventure story both by observing another youngster in a realistic situation and by finding a reference from which to start a discussion with a friend or parent or teacher. For many children, talking about a Blume story is a way to expose their own fears about menstruation or masturbation or death."
Even more disturbing to some adults are Blume's treatment of mature issues and her use of frank language. "Menstruation, wet dreams, masturbation, all the things that are whispered about in real school halls" are the subjects of Blume's books, related interviewer Sandy Rovner in the Washington Post. As a result, Blume's works have frequently been the targets of censorship, and Blume herself has become an active crusader for freedom of expression. As she related to Instructor contributor Judy Freeman, "I felt alone and frightened when my books first came under attack. I felt angry. But for many years now I've felt sad--sad for the kids--because banning a book sends such a negative message. It says to them, 'There's something in this book we don't want you to know about, something we don't want to discuss with you.'" To answer those who would censor her work for its explicitness, Blume said in a Toronto Globe and Mail interview with Isabel Vincent: "The way to instill values in children is to talk about difficult issues and bring them out in the open, not to restrict their access to books that may help them deal with their problems and concerns."
Blume realizes that the controversial nature of her work receives the most attention, and that causes concern for her beyond any censorship attempts. The author explained to New York Times Magazine contributor Joyce Maynard: "What I worry about is that an awful lot of people, looking at my example, have gotten the idea that what sells is teenage sex, and they'll exploit it. I don't believe that sex is why kids like my books. The impression I get, from letter after letter [I receive], is that a great many kids don't communicate with their parents. They feel alone in the world. Sometimes, reading books that deal with other kids who feel the same things they do makes them feel less alone." The volume of Blume's fan mail seems to reinforce the fact that her readers are looking for contact with an understanding adult. Hundreds of letters arrive each week not only praising her books but also asking her for advice or information. Blume remarked to Steinberg in Publishers Weekly: "I have a wonderful, intimate relationship with kids. It's rare and lovely. They feel that they know me and that I know them."
In 1986, Blume collected a number of these letters from her readers and published them, along with some of her own comments, as Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You. The resulting book, aimed at both children and adults, "is an effort to break the silence, to show parents that they can talk without looking foolish, to show children that parents are human and remember what things were like when they were young, and to show everyone that however trivial the problem may seem it's worth trying to sort it out," wrote Adèle Geras in the New Statesman. "If parents and children alike read Letters to Judy," advice columnist Elizabeth Winship likewise observed in the New York Times Book Review, "it might well help them to ease into genuine conversation. The book is not a how-to manual, but one compassionate and popular author's way to help parents see life through their children's eyes, and feel it through their hearts and souls." Blume feels so strongly about the lack of communication between children and their parents that she uses the royalties from Letters to Judy, among other projects, to help endow the KIDS Fund, which she established in 1981. Each year, the fund contributes its income to various nonprofit organizations set up to help young people communicate with their parents.
Like other critics, Washington Post Book World contributor Carolyn Banks commended Blume not only for her honest approach to issues but for her "artistic integrity": "She's never content to rest on her laurels, writing the same book over and over as so many successful writers do." For instance, Tiger Eyes, the story of Davey, a girl whose father is killed in a robbery, is "a lesson on how the conventions of a genre can best be put to use," Lipsyte claimed. While the author uses familiar situations and characters, showing Davey dealing with an annoying younger sibling, a move far from home, and a new family situation, "the story deepens, takes turns," the critic continued, particularly when Davey's family moves in with an uncle who works for a nuclear weapons plant. The result, Lipsyte stated, is Blume's "finest book--ambitious, absorbing, smoothly written, emotionally engaging and subtly political." Walter Clemons noted in a Newsweek review of Tiger Eyes: "No wonder teen-agers love Judy Blume's novels: She's very good. ... Blume's delicate sense of character, eye for social detail and clear access to feelings touches even a hardened older reader. Her intended younger audience gets a first-rate novel written directly to them."
Her 1998 adult novel, Summer Sisters, does not deal with such hard-hitting themes as Tiger Eyes, but in it she proves that she remains, as Cooper put it, a "pithy writer." The book, like Wifey and Smart Women, was published as an adult title. However, as most of the action focuses on a pair of friends in the teenage years, it "could just as easily have been on a YA list," according to Cooper. Set during a series of summers on Martha's Vineyard, the book follows the fortunes of Vix Weaver and Caitlin Somers through the 1970s and 1980s. Vix is the daughter of middle-class parents from Santa Fe, New Mexico, while Caitlin moves in a more upscale crowd. One summer Caitlin invites her friend Vix to share her house on the Vineyard, and during the summer of their sixth-grade year and subsequent summers spent together, the two form a strong bond through shared adventures and sexual awakenings. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt that this "portrait of an unlikely yet enduring friendship as it changes over time ... will remind readers why they read Blume's books when they were young: she finds a provocative theme and spins an involving story."
"Blume is concerned [with describing] characters surviving, finding themselves, growing in understanding, coming to terms with life," John Gough noted in School Librarian. While the solutions her characters find and the conclusions they make "may not be original or profound," the critic continued, "neither are they trivial. The high sales of Blume's books are testimony to the fact that what she has to say is said well and is well worth saying." "Many of today's children have found a source of learning in Judy Blume," Goldberger contended. "She speaks to children, and, in spite of loud protests, her voice is clear to them."
In the Unlikely Event, Blume's next book and her fourth novel for adults, was published seventeen years after Summer Sisters. Hephzibah Anderson reported on the BBC Web site: "In the Unlikely Event is anchored in a backstory that's entirely different to anything you'll have read by her, one so bizarre that it would seem incredible were it not also true. At the start of 1952, three passenger jets crashed within eight weeks of each other over Elizabeth, a town close to Newark Airport. More than one hundred people were killed, leaving locals in a state of twitchy dread. Blume herself grew up in Elizabeth and though she was only fourteen at the time, her memories of that traumatic winter electrify the novel, a tale of love, friendship and loss and of carrying on regardless." Commenting on her inspiration for the novel in a Chicago Tribune Online interview with Laura Pearson, Blume explained: "I never, ever thought about it until I was hit over the head by that moment of 'Oh my God. I've got the story. It takes place in the '50s, and I have to tell it.' It came like no other book has ever come to me. It came with three families, structure. ... Of course, you know, it took five years to write it (laughing), but it came very quickly and then evolved very slowly. I had to do a lot of research."
To this end, In the Unlikely Event is heavily based on newspaper accounts, and it follows fifteen-year-old protagonist Miri. The novel also focuses on Miri's mother, Rusty, and Miri's grandmother, Irene. Told from multiple points of view, the story centers on life in small-town America, a 1950s normalcy that is repeatedly interrupted as three planes fall from the sky over the course of two months. Miri and her friends speculate about the cause, wondering if the crashes are the work of aliens or terrorists. Reporters descend upon the town to document the tragedies, and Miri's uncle, Henry, is a local journalist whose career takes off thanks to his unique position. Henry tells Miri that the crashes are simply a coincidence, but their impact continues to wreak havoc on the lives of Elizabeth's residents. Miri's boyfriend, Mason, is labeled a hero after he helps victims of the third crash, and his newfound fame threatens to ruin their relationship.
"Told rapid fire, in short bursts of chapters, the book switches continuously between the voices of the many, many characters," Alex Martin remarked in UWire Text. "It is a little disorienting at first, but each and every character is given their own legitimacy in the story. The setting--the early 1950s--peeks throughout the novel with beautiful, spot-on details of Angora sweaters in the refrigerator and basement parties livened up with jazz streaming from the jukebox." According to Meredith Goldstein in the Boston Globe, "the autobiographical elements of In the Unlikely Event explain why Blume's story works best when we're following Miri, who spends the book figuring out the meaning of the accidents, dealing with the possible return of a father she never knew, and falling in love for the first time. No one captures coming-of-age milestones and stomach butterflies like Blume, and those scenes are worth waiting for."
Offering further applause in USA Today, Eliot Schrefer observed: "Blume's modest writing style is perfectly suited to such a dramatic topic. Her prose is plain, never preening over its own turns of phrase. It's as if Blume doesn't want us to lose sight of what's important--the simple reality of what her characters are going through. For what the novel lacks in surface beauty, it gains in an accumulating sense of homespun honesty." Viv Groskop, writing in the London Guardian, was also impressed, asserting: "In the hands of another writer, this could have been a difficult maze of stories, characters and raw emotion. But Blume has worked on this for years and made it into the perfect jigsaw puzzle. Its only flaw is perhaps its greatest strength: how do you write fiction about facts that are stranger than fiction? Just like in life, there's no great reveal and no childish pat answer. Blume's fans--old and new--will approve."
Though she has numerous books to her credit, Blume continues to find the writing process a challenge. She admitted to Melissa Whitworth in the London Telegraph: "After each book I get panicky, I don't love the reviews. I don't like going through all that, and you would think that, after almost forty years of writing, I'd have got the hang of it. You can never grow complacent about it because it's always new, it's always exciting and it's always like the first time." Indeed, as Blume noted of In the Unlikely Event in a Bergen County Record interview with Kara Yorio: "I'm not saying that it's my last book ... I always say that: 'I'm never doing this again. I'm never doing this again.' But I do think very seriously that it's my last long, complicated novel for adults, because five years is a long time and I don't think I want to do that again at seventy-seven. I'm not saying I don't have the creative energy and I won't still be involved in creative projects. I will. But I don't think it will be this kind of project."