Summary: Blubber is a good name for her, the note from Wendy says about Linda. Jill crumples it up and leaves it on the corner of her desk. She doesn't want to think about Linda or her dumb report on the whale just now. Jill wants to think about Halloween. But Robby grabs the note, and before Linda stops talking it has gone halfway around the room. That's where it all starts. There's something about Linda that makes a lot of kids in her fifth-grade class want to see how far they can go -- but nobody, least of all Jill, expects the fun to end where it does. -- Yearling
As part of the Shelf Discovery Challenge, I intended on reading a lot of Judy Blume books. And then when my good friend Kathy (aka Bermuda Onion) decided to host a Shelf Discovery/Judy Blume Mini Challenge this month, I really kicked it up a notch and checked out a ton of Judy Blume books from the library. The latest one that I read (actually re-read) was BLUBBER.
At its heart, BLUBBER is a story about bullying and how absolutely cruel kids can be! I was pleasantly surprised by how much of this story that I remembered (although I probably shouldn't be because I did read the book a number of times as a child.) But I was even more surprised by what I didn't remember about this book. For some reason, I thought the book was about Linda -- the chunky girl who was the victim of personal attacks made by the mean girls in her fifth grade class. Rather, BLUBBER was really the story of Jill, one of the girls who actually did the bullying.
I love how Ms. Blume used Jill as the narrator for this book because it is such a unique perspective on a bullying. (So many of the books that I've read about bullying are told by the person who is getting bullied.) Jill was a very interesting character to me because I really didn't like her all that much (doesn't that sound awful?) and I didn't really relate to her. Jill was a somewhat normal girl who was just struggling to find herself -- I don't have a ton of tolerance for kids who choose to be followers and are cruel in the process. She was skinny and not overly attractive; and, she wasn't the smartest or most popular girl in her class either. Like so many other pre-teens, she was just trying to fit in.
Having said that, I have a daughter who is in fifth grade and the exact same ages as the girls in this novel. As her mother, I would be absolutely mortified if she ever treated another girl like Jill and her friends treated Linda. Maybe I'm just naive, but I never would have treated another girl that way growing up and I certainly hope Booking Daughter wouldn't either. I think we've done a pretty good job of instilling compassion and sensitivity to differences in our child, but you can never be one hundred percent sure, right? Even so, I still hear stories about bullying and how mean girls can be to each other. In so many unfortunate ways, I know the book BLUBBER is still relevant in today's society.
I found the ending of this book to be particularly effective. Jill, who does her fair share of picking on Linda, learns how quickly life can change when you're in the fifth grade. (I see this everyday when my daughter tells me about her day.) What I really liked is that this book does not have a happy ending. So many of Judy Blume's books don't have endings that are wrapped up with a nice, tidy bow -- have you noticed that? This story was more authentic and I thought represented how life really works. Jill eventually becomes the victim of some teasing by the same girls that she was "friends" with earlier in the story. It's not always easy to learn these difficult lessons, but Judy Blume does such a fabulous job of presenting them to children in her novels. I think her endings really do make readers (young and old alike) think.
Bullying is a huge issue at my daughter's school -- there is even a bullying committee and forms in the hallways that kids can use to report cases of bullying. I'm not sure that more bullying goes on in her elementary school than others, but I like that our teachers and parents have made preventing bullying a priority in our schools. It definitely starts with educating kids about what constitutes bullying and how kids can help other kids who are being picked on. I actually think BLUBBER would make a fantastic book for kids to read and discuss together. In fact, there is even a reading guide available that teachers could use in the classroom.
I highly recommend BLUBBER for "kids" of all ages. I am handing my copy over to Booking Daughter right away to see what she thinks about this novel. I am so looking forward to discussing it with her.
Note: The cover of the book at the beginning of this post isn't the one that I actually read. I posted this blurry one because it's the one I owned (and loved) as a kid!