Few books have been more influential, controversial, and enduring in children’s literature than Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (Atheneum). In celebration of the book’s 50th anniversary, Blume’s story of a girl confronting faith, puberty, and friendship is slated for republication in a special edition this September, and following a fierce bidding war earlier this year, is being adapted into a motion picture by The Edge of Seventeen director Kelly Fremon Craig.
The publishing landscape today hardly resembles the one into which the book was first published in 1970. “We had no YA category then,” Blume recalls. Instead she thought in terms of grade levels, intending the book for sixth graders. But following its publication, its reach only grew. “Today the book is read by third and fourth graders, too,” Blume says.
She sees the story’s success in the deep connection it has forged with generations of readers. “They say it helped them feel less alone, that it let them know they weren’t the only ones. They liked that it was real. They liked that it was honest. They liked the humor. They identified with Margaret. They still do,” Blume says.
In such a difficult time, with the new coronavirus creating pressures for children and young adults, Blume says she hopes they know that while many things are beyond their control, “we can try to help each other. I feel better when I’m doing something, anything, no matter how small, to make a difference.”
It is a sentiment she will share when she presents at the BookExpo Children’s Book & Author Dinner, along with a simple message of gratitude for how the book’s half century in the world has impacted her own life: “How lucky I am!”
Thursday, May 28, 5:30–7 p.m. Judy Blume is a panelist at the Children’s Book & Author Dinner, live online at facebook.com/bookexpo.