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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Literature’

I discovered ‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret’ by Judy Blume through fellow book bloggers. I had never heard of Judy Blume before and most of the bloggers who wrote about it said that this book influenced them in important ways when they were growing up. Later, while browsing at bookstores, I started seeing Judy Blume books. They seemed to be written for children – not the YA variety but for children – and I rarely buy children’s books, except during those once in a while times, when I really go and splurge on children’s books and read children’s literature for whole months. So, though I made a mental note of Judy Blume, I never read any of her books. A few days back, after taking a long walk in the evening, which ends at a place near a bookstore (not good for me!), I decided to stop by at the bookstore and just browse around. I somehow ended up at the children’s section and there were rows and rows of Judy Blume books. I looked through some of them and decided to get one and it was ‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret’. I finished reading it in one sitting. Here is what I think.

 

What I think

 

‘Are you There, God? It’s Me, Margaret’ is about ten-year old Margaret who moves to a new school when her family moves from New York to New Jersey. The story is about the new friends she makes, the new experiences she has, the perceptions and prejudices that float around at her school, about the boys she meets and about her experiences with religion. It is a story of growing up. It is also about the changes – biological, mental, emotional, behavioural – and transformations, the eccentricities and the peer pressure that growing up entails. It is a book written for children, especially girls, but which adults can relate to.

 

I liked all the characters in the book – there are no heroines and heroes and villains, only normal, lovable, imperfect people. I liked the characters of Margaret’s parents (Margaret’s father was born Jewish and her mother was born Christian and so her mother’s parents disown them when they get married), especially Margaret’s mother, who is really like a friend to Margaret. One of my favourite characters was Margaret’s grandma (her father’s mother), Sylvia Simon. She is cool and she rocks! I like the way Margaret’s parents try to not push her into any religion, but let her grow up and have different experiences before she decides whether she wants to believe in a specific religion or not. It is a beautiful concept, but I haven’t seen any parents practise it, because it is complicated. I also liked Margaret’s teacher Mr.Benedict, who is a nice and shy teacher, teaching his first year in school. One of my favourite scenes was when the naughty class of students plays a trick on him, but Mr.Benedict is patient and wins the game.

 

I also liked a character called Laura Danker who is Margaret’s classmate and who is tall and looks grown-up and who is avoided by the rest of her classmates. I remember having a classmate like that when I was in primary school. She was called Tasneem and she was tall and she looked like a grown-up and no one in the class talked to her. Those days, we had classes only in the mornings till lunch time. But sometimes we had extra classes in the afternoons too. One day I came to the school in the afternoon and discovered that there were no classes. Tasneem had come too. We spoke for a while and we played a few games and I discovered that she was a really nice and pleasant girl. I didn’t know why I didn’t talk to her before and I didn’t know why the others in the class kept away from her. I also liked the scenes where Margaret goes to a Jewish temple and then to a Presbyterian church and then to a Catholic church to find out how the experience is.

 

One of my favourite passages in the book was this :

 

During this time I talked to Nancy every night. My father wanted to know why we had to phone each other so often when we were together in school all day. ‘What can you possibly have to discuss after only three hours?’ he asked. I didn’t even try to explain. Lots of times we did our maths homework over the phone. When we were done, Nancy called Gretchen to check answers and I called Janie.

 

This passage was one of my favourites because it made me feel nostalgic 🙂 I was a late bloomer with respect to the phone – I avoided it like plague before and hated its ringing sound. It was like a siren was blowing which shattered my tranquility. Then at work, I met a friend, who was big on the phone. She inducted me into it, and oddly, we started talking many-a-day after getting back from work. We left work at around 6 O’clock in the evening, we reached home at 7 O’clock and at half past seven we were on the phone talking for an hour! I was a guy who struggled to speak on the phone for a few minutes before and here I was speaking for hours! So, when I read that passage, it made me smile 🙂

 

I think I will ask my sister to read this book, when she is in town the next time. I think she will like it and will be able to identify with the story and the characters. I wish there were books like this for boys – most books for boys seem to be about adventures and don’t depict everyday life.

 

I think I must be the last person to read ‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret’. But in case you haven’t read it yet, and you think it looks interesting, I would recommend that you give it a try. It is a good book to gift to your daughter(s) or your niece(s) or your friend’s daughter(s) who are in their pre-teens or in their early-teens.

 

If you are a Judy Blume fan, I have a question for you. Which Judy Blume book(s) would you recommend that I read next?

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