Authors, illustrators, actors, and fans gathered to celebrate Judy Blumesday on February 4, held in honor of Judy Blume’s 80th birthday. Symphony Space and Thalia Kids Book Club in New York City presented two events to commemorate the beloved author. An afternoon event for kids featured authors Soman Chainani and Jacqueline Woodson, and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Author Rachel Vail moderated discussions among the guests before welcoming Blume to the stage. Actor Colby Minifie then performed a dramatic reading from Blume’s work.
Later that evening, adult guests celebrated Blume with additional discussions and readings of spicier passages from her books. Speakers at the adults-only event were Meg Wolitzer, Samantha Bee, Michael Chernus, Tavi Gevinson, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Laura Gomez, Julie Klausner, Hasan Minhaj, Molly Ringwald, Phoebe Robinson, Tayari Jones, and Jenna Ushkowitz. We’ve rounded up a few photo highlights from the two events.
(From l.): Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Soman Chainani, Rachel Vail, and Jacqueline Woodson.
Chainani reminisced about the first time he read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, books featuring “very cranky boys who come out, guns blazing.” And Ohi shared what she learned from reading and illustrating later editions of Blume’s books, “that becoming a beautiful person is much more about being who you are on the inside and not what you look like.”
Vail described how thankful she is for both the mentorship and friendship that she has with Blume, saying that before she met Blume, “she told me the truth in every book she wrote.” Woodson, the newly minted National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, praised Blume “for first teaching us that young people have struggles and that those struggles are valid.”
A young audience member read her response to a writing prompt.
Actor Colby Minifie (Jessica Jones) read a selection from Blume’s Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great.
Blume spoke frankly about how gratifying—and difficult—writing is: “When each book is finished, I say, ‘How did I do that?’” Questions from audience members included who are Blume’s favorite characters (she can’t decide, but said that Sally J. Friedman is her most autobiographical character: “I’m very connected to Sally”), and whether she will write another book. “There’s something small, something different, brewing,” Blume said. She added that she is also busy doing a different kind of work—running her Key West bookstore, Books & Books: “Now I have a bookstore to go to every day,” she said.
Tavi Gevinson, Julie Klausner, Jenna Ushkowitz, and Laura Gómez performed a dramatic reading from Blume’s Blubber.
Actor Phoebe Robinson (2 Dope Queens) got an attack of the giggles while reading a passage from Blume’s YA classic, Forever, with Hasan Minhaj (The Daily Show).
Actor Molly Ringwald spoke about her admiration for Blume.
All of the performers and speakers at the adult program gathered onstage to present a bouquet of flowers to Blume for her birthday.
Blume received a birthday cupcake and was serenaded with the “Happy Birthday” song. “Thank you to all of you. May all of your wishes come true,” Blume said.