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"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Iggie's House by Judy Blume

We don’t read a lot of Judy Blume around our house. I think I’m detecting a world-view that makes me cozy with that.

But first, this story. I think it may be, content-wise, one of her best. It takes place in a typical, white suburb right around the time of the Civil-Rights movement. The main character, Winnie, is dismayed her best friend, Iggie, just moved away. Many of her neighbors are dismayed that Iggie’s parents sold their house to a Negro family.

This tale is well-told from the perspective of Winnie, a well-intentioned, but naïve young girl. She befriends the new family, but finds that they are not entirely friendly to her crusading nature. The characters are portrayed realistically, and the story is both believable and engaging.

My first flag drop has to do with Winnie’s perspective on people and family life. For example, “Most kids Winnie knew couldn’t stand their brothers and sisters.”
(Yikes. Maybe I live an alternate universe, but most kids I know do like their siblings, even if they fight.)
Winnie and her new friends both casually disobey their parents in order to eavesdrop (and another time when they want to go swimming without parental consent). When they discuss what they overheard their parents saying, it is done dismissively with comments like: “Why can’t they (the parents) be honest?” There is no respect for the fact their parents wish to protect them. The children have the moral high ground in the race relations issue but Winnie loses the high ground in terms of respect for her parents and toward another adult who exhibits racism.

I found these points to be teaching tools. Pointing these examples out to my kids helped them to read critically. You could leave it at that except….

There is a scene in which Winnie and the 3 children from the new black family are in a tree with binoculars, looking around the neighborhood. Winnie is giving the scoop on the neighbors, and she points out Mrs. Axel, who sunbathes wearing only a towel and phone. I suppose the towel keeps this from an x-rating, but it’s extremely tacky, esp. as she’s pointing this out to 2 boys.

You may not be disappointed if you kept it a read-aloud and skipped that nugget entirely.



Laura The Crazy Mama December 29, 2009 at 8:29 AM  

My third grade teacher had the whole Judy Blume collection (CATHOLIC school!). I read every book on her shelf by the end of the year. I sure got SOME kind of education! I re-read some of those books as an adult (looking for something for my tweens to read someday) and HOLY MOLY, they are NOT good for kids! She's a great WRITER, but her content is really inappropriate in nearly all cases! I've read some of her recent stuff and have seen some of her political/religious views. She is very immature. It's almost like she had some sort of warped worldview as a child that she never outgrew.

Tween Lit Crit December 29, 2009 at 10:13 AM  

Your last 2 sentences nail it. And sadly, she's become quite tame compared to more recent books foisted upon the tween populace... sigh.

4ddintx December 29, 2009 at 12:07 PM  

I read way too much Judy Blume growing up and am so glad that none of my girls have asked to check one out at the library. I remember all of the inappropriate stuff from each book, it seems. That's the worst part about a really good writer with an incredibly secular worldview.

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