In third grade I had a friend who was an advanced reader. I remember very clearly the day when she told a few of us that we were going to start a club called the PTSs. It stood for the Pre-Teen Sensations, and she taught us a chant that went,
“We must, we must, we must increase our busts.”
I had no idea what any of this meant, but it seemed fun and daring so I joined.
It wasn’t until a few months later that my friend admitted that she had lifted the idea from a Judy Blume book. I was a decent reader, but mostly stuck to whatever I could get from the children’s room at the library or whatever I could talk my mom into from the Scholastic Reader. I had never heard of Judy Blume, so my friend got us a hall pass and showed me the shelf way back in the library where I could check out some of my own Judy Blume books.
These were the days before automated check outs, and I remember being nervous that the librarian would stop me from taking the book out.
I was checking out a book that talked about kissing boys!
To the credit of the Hanover, Massachusetts public school system I was allowed to take out the book, and any other book I wanted after that.
And a whole new world opened to me. Judy Blume books were my first clue that there might be books about kids like me. I hadn’t been reading chapter books for long, but the ones I had read were about girls who really liked gymnastics, or girls who took really good care of their horses. Judy Blume books were filled with awkward girls who weren’t sure of their place in the world.
Her books answered questions I was too afraid to ask my mom, and gave me new things to think about all of the time.
(Religion? Bullying? Sanitary napkins???)
I read everything by Judy Blume I could get my hands on.
I also began to explore other books. I no longer waited for books to make their way to me. I searched for interesting books, and I read them all.
If in 9th grade I was the only one brave enough to take on David Copperfield for extra credit, it was because that librarian let me take on Judy Blume in third grade. I will be forever grateful for Judy Blume, and for the public libraries in my town that had her books available for check out. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that her books were often banned, and I shudder to think that I probably would have grown bored with reading if those books hadn’t been available to me.
The next year I had finished all of the Judy Blume books, and moved on to The Baby-Sitters Club. The year after that I started reading Stephen King, and V.C. Andrews. Later I tried Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, and Moby Dick. (Still never finished that one. Even a book worm schooled in the words of Judy Blume has her limits.)