I guess i kind of missed the boat on children’s lit. Which isn’t to say that i didn’t read—just that i read the same select few books over and over again, namely: the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series (which i would love to do some kind of project on in regards to gender; details pending); the Wayside School series by Louis Sachar; Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson, by Judy Blume, the title of which i didn’t recognize as a musical reference for several years, as well as Superfudge; and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Now, these weren’t the only books i read as a kid, but they were a lot of the books i read (is that grammatically correct?), and each book/series has made a small part of me what it is today: Wayside School and Unfortunate Events helped shape my generous if odd sense of humor. Here’s to You and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle inspired my love of voyeuristically observing others’ problems form a safe distance.
Despite these gifts, i can’t help but feel i missed out on some classic kids’ books, and i’m sorely reminded of this fact whenever i discuss childhood reading habits with Avery, who was a much more well-read youngster than me. But hey! Just because i’m in college doesn’t mean i can’t play a little catch up, right?
So. A major girlhood classic is Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. I’m surprised this one evaded me, since i, like most girls, was interested in My Changing Body, as well as realistic tales of childhood drama. Even so, i didn’t find my way to it until i was far past puberty. Go figure. But it’s still a valuable book.
A little background: this book is often banned for, i guess, either its frank discussion of menstruation or religion—specifically, not having a religion. I’m not sure which tends to offend more, but obviously these topics aren’t worthy of discussion, especially not with kids—quelle horror! Anywho, Margaret is a top-banned book, and Judy Blume is a top-banned author and all around BAMF for daring to realistically deal with such topics as teenage sexuality, divorce, bullying, and female puberty. She has some lighter stuff too, which doesn’t catch as much flack. And i guess people who ban her books feel that they’re too grave or upsetting or inappropriate for young readers, but the truth is, these topics have long been of importance in kids’ lives, and i would imagine that reading about them in book should make kids feel less abnormal if they’re dealing with them, less alone.
The story is pretty simple but true to the average girls’ feelings about puberty, school, friends, and family. One of the aspects i enjoyed the most about Margaret was its positive portrayal of menarche. Margaret and her friends form a club that regularly discusses periods as part of their meetings—namely, what they think it will be like. The first of the group is to immediately report when they get their first period. And sure, it’s presented a little competitively, even compelling the ring leader of the group to lie and say that she got her period before she really had (*spoiler alert*), but it’s presented as an undoubtedly positive life change, unlike so much other media, in which it’s presented as uncomfortable, dirty, inconvenient, etc. My friend Kelsie, who did read the book when it was a bit more applicable in her life, even said it made her want her period and look on it with a positive perspective.
Margaret‘s generally a permissive book, gently exploring themes of body changes, life changes, and questioning major things, such as the decisions one’s parents make, or the religion one should follow. But it never feels heavy or melodramatic, which is an accomplishment. If i ever have a daughter, i would definitely encourage her to read this—and if i had a son, Blume’s got me covered too: Then Again, Maybe I Won’t serves as a sort of companion book to Margaret in that it’s about a boy’s pubescent experiences. Yay for gender equality, sensitive exploration of childhood experiences, and Judy Blume.