Blubber

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Blubber Book Poster Image
Honest novel shows brutality of grade school bullying.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Blubber teaches readers some hard lessons about how cruel it is to tease and bully, and what it means for someone to "get what they deserve." Also, Jill's little brother, Kenny, is big on sharing things he knows and often pipes up with "fun facts."

Positive messages

Jill comes to understand how to recognize who her true friends are. However, Blubber is not one of those books where the characters all learn the error of their ways. Some kids in the book are mean -- and stay mean. There's unspeakable cruelty among kids in Blubber, but there is also true friendship and courage under peer pressure. 

Positive role models & representations

Jill's parents are patient and calm. They give their children loving care and clear boundaries but allow them a refreshing amount of independence; they are sympathetic to their kids' personal troubles but don't get overinvolved. They are firm with Jill after she and her friend Tracy misbehave, and insist that the girls make amends. There are also some very poor role models, as discipline from teachers and administrators at the kids' school seems capricious at best; they are completely clueless about the ways kids are bullying one another.

Sex

Kids hold down one girl for a boy to kiss; he kisses her on the cheek.

Language

One use of "bitch" and lots of mean, teasing language. Kids are called "fat," "smelly," "disgusting," "dummy," as well as names the children don't even particularly understand but decide are good insults: "carnivore" and "bestial."

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Jill's mom smokes cigarettes but is trying to quit.

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.

User Reviews

Adult Written byeli44 May 15, 2013

watch out - bad language

I loved this book as a kid and was about to give it to my third grader. I started reading it and was surprised to see that very early on in the book a child cal... Continue reading
Parent Written byImThatMom November 15, 2013

Total junk! Not for elementary school age

This book is worthless garbage for any age--a complete waste of time to read, but it is definitely NOT for elementary school! In the "what parents need to... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 21, 2013

Really great!

I am 12 years old and I first read this book when I was 11. Parents need to know that the kids use words that fifth graders use all the time - b*tch, idiot, fat... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 9, 2015

Blubber

I think this book is really good you should definitely read it! But some of the bullying is a bit harsh.

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?

Book details

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