Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Banned Book Review: Blubber by Judy Blume


In honor of banned book week, I am participating in Sheila at Book Journey's banned book challenge. Visit her blog to discover posts from bloggers all over the blogosphere celebrating their freedom to choose what they read!



Blubber: Banned/Challenged: For language and because a bully did not get into trouble


Title: Blubber
Author: Judy Blume


Goodreads Summary:

Blubber is a good name for her, the note from Wendy says about Linda. Jill crumples it up and leaves it on the corner of her desk. She doesn't want to think about Linda or her dumb report on the whale just now. Jill wants to think about Halloween.

But Robby grabs the note, and before Linda stops talking it has gone halfway around the room.

That's where it all starts. There's something about Linda that makes a lot of kids in her fifth-grade class want to see how far they can go -- but nobody, least of all Jill, expects the fun to end where it does.


My thoughts:

Kids can be cruel and mean. There is no doubt about that, and the characters in this book, including the main character Jill, are no exception. Jill joins forces with her classmates to make one fellow student's life a living hell. They bully Linda mercilessly, calling her Blubber and fat and a smelly whale, and some of their stunts border on assault. Jill isn't just a jerk at school, she is at home as well. She picks on her brother, calling him dumb all the time, and on Halloween she and her best friend Tracy run around pulling mean pranks on people, such as breaking rotten eggs into the mailbox of the neighborhood curmudgeon, and of course, writing mean things on the sidewalk in front of Linda's house.  However, something happens that puts Jill on the other side of things, and she becomes the victim of bullying. Ultimately, Jill puts a stop to everything, but only after suffering herself, and learning what it is like when the shoe is on the other foot. 

This book is unpleasant to read as an adult. It is hard to read about the depths of the bullying that occurs at such a young age, but from working in an elementary school, you can see cliques start to form early, like first or second grade. The mechanics are already in place for someone to be the odd man out, the scapegoat. This book doesn't pull any punches, and there is never really retribution. The lead bully never gets into trouble, her life stays mainly the same. Does this suck? Yes, absolutely. We live in a world where we like to see the villain get their due. But in reality, that doesn't always happen. I read this in elementary school, and I wish I could remember what I thought of it. The definition of flenser stuck with me, but as far as how this book made me feel, that is lost to the years.

Judy Blume is no stranger to censorship. Her books are realistic, and are often challenged. Blubber has been challenged for the swearing it contains (there are few instances of bitch and damn, also some racial slurs) and because the bully gets away without punishment. Again, this is just another discussion point, that not everyone gets what they deserve. That statement, about getting what you deserve, is actually in the book. Jill and Tracy get into trouble for their Halloween stunts, and they are told that maybe now they will learn that they are not necessarily in charge of deciding what other people deserve, which obviously applies not just to their Halloween prank, but to what is going on with Linda.

Linda never tells anyone what is going on. The adults and teachers in the book seem either clueless or like they are turning a blind eye to what is going on. We all know bullying is a huge issue right now, especially as kids can go home and still be bullied through digital media and their phones. I would think this book would be a good entree to a classroom discussion about bullying, and what to do if you are being bullied, not a book that should be banned, or hidden away. It's a book that parents and children can read together, or if a student happens to pick it out from the library and read it on their own, maybe it will cause them to think about what happens, and to empathize with Linda. Maybe they will learn what it means to be a bully, to be bullied, and what they should do if bullied: Speak up. 


12 comments:

  1. I loved all of Judy Blumes books as a kid. I do need to read this one again. Thanks for posting! I have you linked up to go live on tmorrow mornings post :)

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    1. I was such a Blume fan! I am happy kids still check her out!

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  2. My kids used to read Judy Blume. It's important to address bullying, and maybe this would be a part of a new discussion between parents and kids. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. I think this really could be a great discussion starter for parents and kids. :)

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  3. My kids loved reading Judy Blume's books! I never censored what they read, but if I had this wouldn't have been one of them. Bullying is wrong, and kids need to learn that.

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  4. I never read this one though I read most of her books when I was a kid and teen. Next month is National Bullying Prevention Month and I am hoping to put together some kind of display at the library so I will need to remember Blubber.

    Great review! Maybe not the best book about bullying but maybe it will speak to readers about the importance of their words and actions all the same.

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    1. I agree! It sucks that the main perpetrator doesn't get her just desserts but at least the main character bully learns her lesson.

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  5. I think this could very well break my heart if I read it now. I remember being so affected by it when I read it as a young teen. What an important book...I do think it changed me for the better :D

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    1. Omg I found it so hard to read in places! The cruelty of children. I don't remember what I thought when I was a kid. I related to the character Rochelle, who was a bystander for the bullying that was going on, unsure of what to do. Maybe this book helped me find my voice, because as I grew older I stuck up for kids at school all the time. So just maybe, it was this book.

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  6. Great review! Bullying never really goes away and it's so important for kids to read stuff like this, not only the kids being bullied but maybe the kids doing it too, so they stop and think (hopefully). Why this would be banned is beyond me, I agree with you that it should be a conversation starter. I never read this but heard about it as a kid, and it sounds still timely today.

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    1. Yes! I agree that kids that are doing the bullying should read this - can you imagine a teacher reading this book to the class, and having class discussions? I feel that it would be such a valuable classroom tool. The themes are definitely timely for today, although the book does show its age in places. Like UNICEF - does that still happen? I am going to have to check.

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