Today at my college library they had a poster up about banned books, and I was amazed to see “Blubber,” by Judy Blume, on the list. I have no idea why anyone would ban that book.
I remember when I first saw the book “Blubber,” sitting on the upstairs bookshelf. I picked it up when I went into my room, sat on the couch, and devoured it.
The main character was this average girl named Jill who went to public school where there were popular girls who were bullies. The main popular bully was a girl named Wendy. Wendy picked on a fat-ish girl named Linda by calling her “blubber,” and Jill joined in even though she was not as mean-spirited as Wendy.
Eventually Jill stood up to Wendy and Wendy was so so so mad. She re-focused her efforts, becoming friends with Linda and bullying Jill instead. Linda bullied Jill too. Everyone bullied Jill.
And then…this was the most amazing part…Jill stood up to all the bullies. She said all these cutting words which made them stop in their tracks and re-think their life. Maybe not exactly. But they stopped bullying her.
I loved that book. I dreamed of going to a public school and getting bullied and saying all the right things to make them stop, fazed at my amazingness.
My mom was bullied in public school. She was amish, and the boys made fun of her covering. They would say “everything’s better with a bonnet on it!” You know, the blue bonnet margarine slogan. My mom wouldn’t know what to say.
“If it were me,” I said, “I would have told them, ‘ha ha everything’s better with a bonnet on it so I’m better than you!'”
“You see,” said Mom. “You can just think of stuff like that to say, but I never could.”
I made up a lot of stories as a kid. Some of them played out in my mind like a movie. Some of them I acted out with my dolls, or while playing with my friends. But they were all heavily influenced by the books I read.
Blubber, of course, was one of those books. For weeks after I read that book I made up a story in my head about a girl who was super-beautiful and went to Wendy’s school in the middle of the year and all the boys liked her and Wendy was mad and did all these mean things but the girl said all the right things back.
Other books that heavily influenced my stories:
Mandy, by Julie Edwards
Plot: This is a book about a girl named Mandy who lived at an orphanage. One day she discovered a little cabin in the woods, and she re-decorated it and made it all pretty. Then some really rich people adopted her.
Result: A lot of my stories involved cabins in woods which got restored. I made little doll houses out of these boxes that held two milk jugs, and the doll who inhabited that house always had the Mandy story.
Adopted Jane, by H.R. Daringer
Plot: An orphan girl gets adopted by rich people. I don’t really remember what I liked so much about this book, but it probably was partially because the main character got new dresses. This was back in the day when everyone wore pretty dresses.
Result: A lot of the stories I made up involved orphans getting adopted by rich people and getting new pretty dresses. I have a cassette tape where I recorded myself telling a story I made up, and later, when I let my sister Amy listen to it, she said, “Isn’t that just like Adopted Jane?”
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnette
Plot: A girl goes to live with her rich uncle, and finds a garden which she restores.
Result: Similar to Mandy, in that I was fascinated by the idea of having this secret place and making it pretty. Every other Friday my school used to go to the rec center in Brownsville, and while the guys played basketball my cousin Stephy and I went down to the park. We found this place that we called our secret garden, and we restored it. Well, we moved a big rock and made a path through it. Close enough.
Mandie and the Secret Tunnel, by Lois Gladys Leppard
Plot: Mandie was a beautiful girl who lived with a really mean mom and sister. Her Dad had died. Then she realized that her mean mom and sister were really only her step-mom and step-sister! Also, she had an uncle living, and he was really rich!
Mandie ran away from home and found her uncle. Then she lived with him. Then she discovered that her real mom was still alive and she married her uncle. Oh, and Mandie got a lot of pretty dresses. And discovered a secret tunnel. It was all quite amazing.
This book was followed by a huge series in which Mandie did many more amazing things.
Result: There were gobs of things about the Mandie books Mandie which influenced my stores. I will make a bulleted list.
- Running away from home
- Getting pretty dresses
- Going to visit Indian friends
- Being divinely beautiful and having all the guys fall in love with you
- Solving mysteries
- Going to a boarding school
- Finding secret tunnels