Linda, an overweight girl in fifth grade, gives a report about whales one day. Someone passes around a note that "Blubber is a good name for her" and Linda has a new nickname. The other kids start to tease and harass her and just generally make her life miserable. Our narrator, Jill, watches all this and even takes part in it.
Holy cow, what mean little kids these are! This was hard to read, even as an adult. Or maybe it's because I'm an adult and unconsciously prefer to look back at childhood with rose-colored glasses. We definitely had a pecking order in our class and the kids at the bottom of it were picked on but I don't remember it being this bad! The sad thing is that it all feels real though. I tended to keep to myself so there could have been mean girls cornering other girls in the bathroom and stripping them off and making fun of them mercilessly for all I know. And even if my class wasn't that mean, just the act of avoiding someone or always choosing him or her last for teams was damaging enough. There may be degrees but bullying is still bullying.
The beauty of the book is that the reader first has enough distance to see how cruelly the other kids treat Linda and then, when the tables are turned, learn how it feels to be tormented. It definitely teaches a lesson about how destructive bullying is without being too preachy.
I don't know if there are better books about bullying out there but this one has become a classic. Children should have to read it or something like it so that they can learn how hurtful their actions can be. And if a child is being picked on, it lets them know that he or she is not alone.
Judy Blume writes on the Index on Censorship website, "My book Blubber was banned in Montgomery County, Maryland, for ‘lack of moral tone’ and, more recently, challenged in Canton, Ohio, for allowing evil behaviour to go unpunished." I don't know what "lack of moral tone" means. The kids were little brats? Well, yeah. But there are little brats everywhere. You have to learn how to deal with them and/or stand up to them at some point. Why not when you're young? The evil behavior thing? I see where they're coming from but kids have a code: Don't be a tattle tale. Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's bad. The point is that you can't count on adults to handle every situation for you. Nor does karma always get in a good smack, much as we might wish and hope for it. Sometimes you just have to handle things the best way you can. Blubber shows us that.
Read an excerpt.
Find author Judy Blume on her website.
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|photo credit: Old Books by Petr Kratochvil|
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