Those who think children's book authors only write about sugar, spice and everything nice haven't read anything by New Jersey-born writer Judy Blume.
Unfortunately for Blume, those who do think children's books should be about such subjects have read her work - and then mounted strong efforts to have it removed from the shelves of school and public libraries.
While many of Blume's books are written for children - she is the author of the wildly popular "Fudge" series - she also writes books that deal with topics she believes children and teens think about. These include "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" (religion and puberty), "Blubber" (bullying), "Iggie's House" (racism) and "Forever" (teen sex).
But while Blume's writing may have made her some enemies, it is also earned her legions of devoted fans. The books, some more than 30 years old, are still popular with young readers.
"The books are incredibly popular. We have multiple copies of her books because they go out so much. Children just love her books," said Janet Marler, an outreach and access services librarian with the Atlantic County Library System.
Marler was in sixth grade when she read "Are You There God?" The book made her a lifelong Blume fan.
"The book is wonderful, like all of Judy Blume's books, for talking about things in a matter-of-fact, child's point of view sort of way," said Marler. "One of the appeals of her books is that she deals with sensitive topics with a great deal of humor. When kids read her books, they really get a sense of the characters and issues being discussed, but they want to keep reading because the books are so funny."
Blume was born in Elizabeth, Union County, in 1938 and lived there until moving to Florida when she was in the third grade. She now splits her time between Key West, Florida, and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Blume published her first book, "The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo" in 1969. She has published 28 books, including "Friend or Fiend," published in May and part of the "The Pain and the Great One" series.
Blume is not just a children's' book author. She also has written several popular adult books, including "Wifey," "Smart Women" and "Summer Sisters."
Because of the challenges to her books, she also has become an activist against censorship. She works with the National Coalition Against Censorship and is editor of "Places I Never Meant To Be, Original Stories by Censored Writers."
On her Web site, Blume admits to being surprised that people would be upset by her books.
"It never occurred to me, at the time, that what I was writing was controversial," she writes on her site. "Much of it grew out of my own feelings and concerns when I was young."
"I believe that censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed," she writes. "Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children's lives. This fear is often disguised as moral outrage. They want to believe that if their children don't read about it, their children won't know about it. And if they don't know about it, it won't happen."
"Censors don't want children exposed to ideas different from their own," Blume writes. "If every individual with an agenda had his/her way, the shelves in the school library would be close to empty."
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