'' out of her daughter's hands, another is relieved just to hand her the book and avoid the ''menstruation talk.'')Michele Landsberg, in her noted study '' Reading for the Love of It,'' echoes her fellow critic Davis Rees, who calls Blume ''trivial and second-rate'' and compares reading her to ''a bashing on the head with a blunt instrument.'' Landsberg attacks Blume for ''her bland and unquestioning acceptance of majority values,'' her ''unbounded narcissism'' and her ''flat, sloppy, ungrammatical, inexpressive speech.'' I suppose I could defend Blume by pointing out that her first-person narrators often write ungrammatically because they are still young, or that John Steinbeck and Richard Wright also eschewed subtlety to make their points. Hinton all continue to be enormously popular, decade after decade, even as their novels become dated and children become ever more centered on our music-video present?
But the real issue, as Landsberg makes clear six pages later, lies elsewhere: '' The whole idea of realism in 'young adult' novels is problematic anyway,'' she writes. Was it Black Beauty, Mowgli at the ceremony of fire, Tarzan discovering his nobility, Alice pertly talking back to the Queen? It is because their novels are that rarest of species, realism for young people.
Faced with such immediacy, it is surely best, the teachers figure, to assign '' Black Beauty'' or '' Johnny Tremain.'' Place the material far away in time and place.
Or assign L' Engle, and allow her to transport us to another dimension. Adult or critical acclaim for Blume has been intermittent and has never resembled the adoration heaped on her by young people.
Judy Blume's willingness to recognize children's serious thoughts about sex, religion and class made her a figure of controversy 25 years ago, but it looks as if the shock has worn off.
Essay On Forever By Judy Blume
In 1996, the American Library Association gave her its Margaret A.Usually, in the world of children's literature, the same books are successful with readers, teachers and critics: think of E. We had learned about puberty from '' Are You There, God?It's Me, Margaret'' and '' Then Again, Maybe I Won't''; about sex from '' Forever''; about divorce from '' It's Not the End of the World.'' And everybody had read about the sibling rivalry between Fudge and Peter, made famous in '' Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing'' and its sequel '' Superfudge.'' Sometimes we knew about these books only through word of mouth, for feckless children's librarians often kept them out of reach, afraid of the legion of censors who have for years kept Blume's work on the American Library Association's annual list of most challenged books.(Landsberg condemns Blume's books as ''therapeutic.'')What is remarkable about the catharsis offered, though, is Blume's range of subjects and the aplomb with which she handles them. In '' Then Again, Maybe I Won't,'' Blume draws a portrait of the arriviste, striving suburban family so incisive that it can be fully appreciated only by an adult.Tony's family moves from Jersey City to an upscale suburb, and his dad sells the family truck after a neighbor thinks they're having work done on the house.Some of the disparity stems from the Puritan strain extant even in the literary precincts of our culture.(Although, as one female friend pointed out to me, for every parent trying to keep '' Are You There, God?Tony's mom lets the neighbor call her Carol instead of Carmella, which is ''too hard to remember.'' The authorial glare cuts deep. '' Margaret feels left out because all her friends belong to either a church or a synagogue (Margaret is half Jewish); she tries to find a religion for herself, visiting as many houses of worship as possible in a year.No other popular book for children credits them with thinking seriously about organized religion.'' When you think back to your childhood reading, what was it that stirred, excited, thrilled you with the unfolding potential drama of life . Or was it 'a kid just like you,' worrying about gas pains, tomorrow's math test and Mom's pap smear? Adults who subsist on Updike, Tyler, Cheever and Stone seem unable to fathom that just as they enjoy reading about ''people like them,'' their sons and daughters crave that, too.'' I know what the answer is supposed to be, but I confess that I choose Blume's realism. By age 11 or 12, some children have outgrown the fantastic.