Chances are, even if you’ve been living in an underground bunker your whole life, you’ve heard of Judy Blume. She is one of the most prominent children’s authors, pioneering coming of age literature in a pre-Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games world. Blume is an advocate for intellectual freedom and has worked tirelessly for the National Coalition Against Censorship. And it’s no wonder, since she has more books on the Challenged Book List than any other author. In celebration of her birthday February 12th, here are five books that have provided multiple generations with answers to questions they might have been too afraid to ask.
1. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (a.k.a. the period book)
This 1970 classic depicts pre-teen Margaret, her struggle growing up in an interfaith family and her foray into puberty. She learns the horrifying details of an older generations’ use of sanitary belts (the books have since been updated with modern period technology). Bras, crushes, menstruation, and all of puberty’s challenges become accessible to the younger reader in Margaret’s world.
2. Deenie (a.k.a. the masturbation book)
Published in 1973, this novel follows Deenie and her dysfunctional family. Her overbearing mother wants Deenie to be a model, but those plans are shattered when they discover that Deenie has scoliosis. While Deenie struggles with her identity and learning to love herself, she learns to love herself.
3. Blubber (a.k.a. the bullying book)
1974 brought us Blubber, in which Jill participates in tormenting her chubby classmate, until the tables are turned and she becomes the target. Though ring leader Wendy never faces any consequences, Jill learns how her actions can affect others and who she can really trust.
4. Forever (a.k.a. the sex book)
Released in 1975, Forever depicts Katherine, who decides to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, and believes that will keep them together forever. During their summer apart, Katherine discovers she has feelings for her tennis instructor and pursues a relationship with him. Blume explores the complexity of teenage love, the emotional and physical consequences of sex, birth control, and sexually transmitted diseases.
5. Tiger Eyes (a.k.a. the death book)
The 1981 classic follows Davey in the aftermath of her father’s death. After her family moves to a new city, Davey becomes friends with a boy who calls himself Wolf and faces the slow death of his father to cancer. One of Blume’s darkest novels, it deals with depression, alcoholism, suicide, and grief.
Thanks for leading the way, Judy Blume. Happy Birthday.