Since the 1970 publication of her classic coming-of-age novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., Judy Blume famously refused all offers for a film adaptation. Until screenwriter and director Kelly Fremon Craig wrote Blume an email that changed her mind. PW spoke with Blume in an exclusive behind-the-scenes interview on the film set in June 2021, and with Justin Chanda, senior v-p and publisher at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, about the movie tie-in edition that Atheneum will publish on February 28, in advance of the film’s April 28 release. The trailer was released today.
Once Blume met Fremon Craig and her mentor James L. Brooks (who produced the film along with Blume), she understood that their vision of Margaret matched her own. Immediately Blume, 84, felt a new urgency. “I realized I wanted to see it while I’m still here.”
Blume credits the film with pitch-perfect casting. Abby Ryder Fortson (Ant Man and the Wasp) stars as Margaret, Oscar-nominated Rachel McAdams plays her mother, actor and director Benny Safdie portrays her father, and Oscar winner Kathy Bates rounds out the ensemble as Margaret’s grandmother. “When I write I hear the characters, but I don’t see the characters,” Blume said. “So to see them now after 50 years is incredible. And they are even better than I imagined.”
For the movie tie-in edition, Atheneum aimed to design a cover that would appeal to both new readers and devoted fans. Chanda said, “It’s important that [Margaret] feel fresh and relevant to modern kids, and doesn’t feel exclusively nostalgic. That last point is always enormously important to Judy. For this package we were shown several key images from the film as well as some early versions of the poster and marketing treatments that were in process from the studio.”
The team at Atheneum collaborated closely with the film team at Lionsgate and Blume. “We worked with a set of three images for over a month,” Chanda said. “The editor on the repackage, Sophia Jimenez, and the art director, Karyn Lee, went through just about every possible variation with those images and tried several designs with various cast shots and type treatments. Each design was reviewed not only by the studio but of course Judy herself. Late in the game we saw this shot of Abby Ryder Fortson fixing her shoe, and there was something so perfectly Margaret about it. It had life, and playfulness, and felt relatable and timeless. Judy felt that this was a design that will catch you on the shelves, and one you will remember. The filmmakers agreed. The director agreed. And now it’s our cover!”
Chanda believes that the new cover not only supports the movie but will also stand the test of time. “Thanks to all the hard work of everyone involved, I feel like this is so much more impactful than a standard fare movie tie-in edition of a book. This feels like Margaret. It’s a fresh, new, appealing, lively design that embodies the energy that has made the novel not only a classic, but a must read for over 50 years.”
But perhaps the thing he holds most dear is Blume’s reaction. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say the thing we are most proud of is that fact that Judy loves it.”
On January 11, PW attended an advance screening of the film. In a fireside chat with Blume prior to the screening, Today co-host Jenna Bush Hager said, “Judy Blume is an exceptional writer and she’s really the first person who told a lot of us the truth. And I remember where I was [when I read Margaret]. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was awkward. I got boobs early. I was the tallest kid in the class. And I remember closing the cover and I didn't feel so alone in the world. And that is because of this incredible book.”
Hager asked Blume if she ever anticipated this longevity and that readers would still love her books 50 years later. Blume said, “It’s extraordinary and it’s surreal that this was [written] so long ago. I think of that young woman who needed to get this written and who needed to get her stories out..” Blume hopes that the movie will bring together the generations of women and girls who loved the book while also capturing new readers. “I wanted it to be for all the women who grew up reading it. First and foremost, it’s for the ones who will remember where they were when they read it.”
Blume also joined Hager on Today on January 12, to discuss bringing Margaret to the screen after more than 50 years.