Popular children and YA author Judy Blume has long been an advocate for kids’ right to read, and she is speaking out again about how ridiculous some parental censorship crusades have gotten in recent years.
“Parents are getting cuckoo,” she said in an interview with Seth Meyers on Friday’s Late Night Show. Blume, who has worked in the industry for over 40 years and published numerous books, has seen a lot of changes in how children and parents buy and read books. When she first started writing, she notes that the there was not a young adult classification that differentiated children’s books from more mature content. “There was no such thing. I was writing books for young readers,” she notes. “Maybe if Forever were published now, it would be published YA. Certainly it would be. My publishers didn’t know what to do with it.”
Along with being at the forefront of the inception of the young adult genre, Blume also was witness and sometimes victim herself to calls for censorship brought about by some parents as their children grew into new forms of reading. “’80s was bad. ’80s was very bad. That was the height of censorship,” Blume recalls. “It’s still happening all of time. Not necessarily my books, but lots of books. Parents are getting cuckoo.” Blume fears that stories she wrote in the 1970s about various life lessons and the crazy escapades that kids get into would be misinterpreted today by parents and labeled as traumatizing to their children.
Take for instance Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, the first book in her Fudge series, which tells the tale of the 9-year-old Peter’s frustrations with his poorly behaved 2-year-old brother Fudge. In the story, Fudge swallows Peter’s pet turtle ultimately killing the little animal. In the 1970s, Blume says that this would be a life lesson to kids to not put certain things in their mouths, but today this small part of the story would have parents raising red flags and calling for the book to be banned from schools and libraries. “Now it’s like, ‘that was very sad what you did to that turtle, and my child is never going to get over this.’ I’m like, Hello? It’s funny!”
Although censorship continues to be an issue that creators have to contend with, Blume has kept a positive attitude regarding her own experiences. Her upbeat demeanor further demonstrates the ridiculousness of the current situation faced by schools and libraries when parents are upset about particular materials. Instead of backing down, Blume has found ways to use her voice and fame to spread another positive and important message to both parents and children: “I say go and read. Read what you like to read.
Watch a portion of the interview with Judy Blume here.
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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!