Dear Judy Blume,
I’ve always loved reading. Driving into town to our quaint, ancient library in the downtown of the small town where I grew up is one of my fondest memories. My Mom, my sister and I would go at least once a week. We’d spend an hour perusing the shelves to find a whole stack of stories that would entertain us until the next time we’d return. Mrs. Kay, the diminutive librarian with snow white hair and the unmistakable shake of Parkinson’s was so kind, quiet and helpful. She was quick with a suggestion for a new story that I might like. I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I felt like a whole new world opened up. Fantasy and fun and crazy imagination flooded my mind. I loved it. Encyclopedia Brown ignited my love for mysteries. There was nothing better than trying to figure out who did it. The Babysitter’s Club was what my Mom likes to call “mind candy”; they were just books for fun. V.C. Andrews drew me into a morbid world that I didn’t even know existed, but I loved it all the same. The stories were so dark and crazy and totally out there. They provided a different kind of escape, one I hoped I’d never, ever experience myself, but loved to read about for pure entertainment.
One day your beloved Blubber fell into my hands. Maybe it was because Mrs. Kay knew I needed it, maybe she was just a fan of your work, but for whatever reason, I read it and I discovered something I never knew about books before: they could provide comfort. Up until this point in my life, I’d never been comforted by a book. I had never read a book and thought “That’s just like me!” Blubber not only made me realize that I was not alone, but it made me realize that, in a childhood filled with events that left me very alone and confused, I could head to my dependable library for comfort when I couldn’t find it anywhere else. After Blubber came It’s Not the End of the World at the perfect time in my life. I’m starting to think the librarian was in on the town gossip just like everyone else. How else would she know to direct me to your books just when I need them so? My parents were the first ones in town to get a divorce; no one could understand what I was going through. But you did. Karen spoke my language about what it feels like to be a daughter of divorce. It was so, so comforting. While reading Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret? I knew I was normal. I was perfectly weird and hormonal and 11-years-old normal. It was like a giant bear hug when I needed it most. Tiger Eyes was a difficult read because I felt so terribly for Davey about the death of her father. But I could empathize with the way she felt about school, about her mother dating “The Nerd” and her need for escape. I read Forever before I really understood all that it was about. It was certainly the first time I read about a penis and sex and it felt weird to be in on the secret. It was an eye-opener for me, but I couldn’t fully “get” it. But later on, when faced with my first real “love” and sex and all of those messy teenage notions, I remembered your words and your story of Katherine and Michael and their forever love. Your words were like the big sister I never had, providing me with advice and comfort when I needed it most.
I’m not sure if your intention when writing your novels was to provide comfort, but that’s what they were to me. These five were just my favorites; I’ve read all of your books and loved them all. I have a feeling you just wrote from your heart and that, by chance, your heart was very similar to mine. In a childhood full of uncomfortable and heartbreaking events, I could always count on my weekly trip to the library, down the B aisle, straight to Judy to help me find the comfort I so desperately needed. From the bottom of my small-town, confused, heartbroken pre-teen heart, I thank you.