Who Is Judy Blume?
By 1968, Judy Blume had been writing stories and books for children for several years. She had sent her work to publishers but had only sold a few stories. That was a start, but she dreamed of having a book published.
Judy had been making up stories in her head her whole life, but she had only started to write them down when her children, Randy and Larry, began school. Without her kids at home, Judy didn’t have much to do. She tried new hobbies. But she was bored. Then Judy tried writing. Suddenly, she had found something she loved to do. Writing was the easy part, though. The hard part was finding someone to publish what she wrote.
That changed when she got the phone call. It was from a publishing company. They had read an idea for a picture book she had sent them called The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo
. And they wanted to publish it!
Judy was so excited. Someone actually was going to publish a book she had written! She ran down to the basement, where her children were playing with their friend Laurie. They were molding Silly Sand into different shapes. Judy grabbed handfuls of the Silly Sand and began to throw it into the air. She picked up her kids and spun them around. Laurie stared at Mrs. Blume and then went home crying. Through her tears, she told her mother that Randy and Larry’s mother had gone crazy.
Judy Blume hadn’t gone crazy. She was simply celebrating. And—although she didn’t know it—she was on her way to becoming one of the most popular children’s authors of all time.
Every year, new generations of young readers discover her stories and see themselves in the characters she has created—kids who are just like them. They worry about the same embarrassing things. They struggle with the same problems. Through her characters, Judy has talked about many things other adults wouldn’t explain.
And to her many fans, she has become a hero who lets them know that they aren’t the only ones who question what is happening around them—with their families, their feelings, and even their own bodies. In Judy’s books, young readers can see that the world isn’t a perfect place, but it is often a hilarious one. Chapter 1: Elizabeth, Miami, Elizabeth
Judith Sussman was born on February 12, 1938, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Her father, Rudolph, was a dentist. Her mother, Esther, was a stay-at-home mom. She had a brother, David, who was four years older than her.
Her father was outgoing, fun loving, and adventurous. Her mother was quieter and worried about everything: She worried about her family getting hurt. She worried about whether Judy was doing well in school, about how Judy looked, and even if Judy had any friends. Judy was a combination of both her parents. She tried to be adventurous, but she also worried a lot.
Judy was very shy when she was young, but she always had a vivid imagination. She made up stories while she bounced a ball off the wall of the house. She took piano lessons, then pretended that she was a piano teacher with her own group of students. She even had a notebook in which she kept track of her imaginary students’ lessons. She dreamed of being a cowgirl, a spy, an actress, a ballerina, or a detective when she grew up.
Judy’s father was an air-raid warden during World War II. He was supposed to help move people to safer places if the town of Elizabeth were ever bombed. Her mother and grandmother knitted sweaters to send to the soldiers fighting in Europe. The whole family sat around the radio in the evenings and listened to news about the war. Judy could hear her parents whispering about it late at night. She worried about the possibility of the war coming to America and about her town being bombed.
Her stories were her escape, though. In real life, she might have feared many things. But in the stories she made up, Judy always beat the enemy. She was always brave and strong. She was the hero. Although this made her feel better, she kept her stories secret. Adults often seemed to have secrets. Why shouldn’t she have them, too?
Judy loved going to the movies and reading. She would visit the library and just wander past the shelves, picking up anything that looked interesting. Her favorite books were the Nancy Drew series, the Oz books, and the Betsy-Tacy books, about two friends in Minnesota.
In 1946, Judy’s brother became very sick. His doctor suggested that moving to a warmer place might help David’s health. Judy and her mother, brother, and grandmother all moved to Miami, Florida, for the year. Her father stayed in New Jersey to be near his patients and continue working. He came to visit the rest of the family in Florida once a month.
At first Judy hated being away from home. She was only nine years old. And she worried about how her father was doing all alone back in New Jersey. But then she started to have fun. She went roller-skating and rode her bike. She visited the nearby beach and swam in the Atlantic Ocean. She took ballet lessons. And she made new friends.
Judy began to change while she was in Florida. She became more outgoing. When she returned home to New Jersey, she was no longer shy. She began to spend more time with her friends and at school activities. In seventh grade, she became best friends with a girl named Mary Sullivan. They were inseparable.
Judy’s brother was quiet and didn’t work very hard in school. Judy often felt she had to work twice as hard to make up for David. She put a lot of effort into her studies and tried to please her parents. She kept all her worries to herself and always acted happy. But sometimes the stress was too much for Judy. Throughout her childhood, she was sick with stomach trouble and skin problems.
When Judy got to middle school, she found that books written for girls that age didn’t interest her. She didn’t care for stories about girls with horses or girls who grew up on farms out on the prairie. She wanted to read books about a girl like her, with some of her same problems. Sometimes she even made up books for her school book reports! Some were about the adventures of a horse named Dobbin, because she thought that sounded like the type of book teachers would expect her to read. She often got As on her fake reports because they sounded so much like real books!
None of the books Judy was supposed
to like answered the kinds of questions that were on her mind. She and her friends wanted to know more about what it was like to be grown-up and to learn all the details they could about their changing bodies. But the adults they knew either avoided their questions or gave them scientific explanations that didn’t help much.
Judy and her friends promised that they would share all their experiences and tell one another how they really felt. That’s what friends were for.
But still, Judy had thoughts and feelings she didn’t understand. She didn’t want scientific explanations; she wanted to know what puberty would really
be like. She wondered if she was the only one who felt this way. Was she normal? Judy wished there was a book that told her that she wasn’t alone with her thoughts and emotions. But there wasn’t.
Copyright © 2018 by Kirsten Anderson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.