A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Blubber is a brutally honest look at (pre-Internet-era) bullying among fifth graders. An overweight girl is teased mercilessly by some classmates, and no one stands up for her. Places like the school bus, the girls' bathroom, and an unsupervised classroom at lunchtime become like emotional torture chambers for the girl they call "Blubber." She is teased, tripped, humiliated, and physically restrained while her underwear is exposed. Even the narrator of the book, Jill, is unremorseful. The book contains little in the way of serious physical violence or profanity, but the emotional cruelty of the children's language and behavior is hard to stomach.
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What's the story?
Written in 1974, BLUBBER gives a brutally honest look at bullying among grade school kids. After a girl named Linda gives an oral report to her fifth grade class on the Eskimos' use of whale blubber, the other students begin teasing Linda by calling her "Blubber." Jill, the narrator of the novel, goes right along with the bullies but later realizes that the mean kids are not necessarily her true friends. When she becomes the object of bullying herself, she finds ways to cope.
Is it any good?
Blubber is a painful book to read because the children in the novel are so cruel to one another. However, it's an extremely honest and realistic view of kid behavior that's worth examining by parents and middle-grade children. The novel does not spell out moral lessons for kids, but it teaches them by portraying truly repugnant behavior. The characters are believable, if not too likable, and the story is logical and entertaining. Judy Blume proves a reliable source for insight into the kids' world, and shows the value of true friendship and courage under peer pressure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they learn about bullying from reading Blubber. How would you behave if you were Jill? Is it just as wrong to go along with mean behavior as it is to instigate it?
Why do you think this book is an enduring classic, yet often challenged for its candid portrayal of mean grade school behavior?
Does Jill seem to have learned a lesson about bullying by the end of the book?
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