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Are You There God? It’s Us, Alix & Dottie.

ALIX & DOTTIE: We must! We must! We must increase our bust!!

ALIX: Oh, hey! We didn’t see you there. We were just uh….you know. Chatting.

DOTTIE: Yes, that’s right. Chatting. Ahem.


image: wavz13

ALIX: So as you all know, Dottie came up with a fabulous idea to re-read some of our favorite books from childhood.

DOTTIE: Aw thank you. Well I have so many books that I just adore, but haven’t cracked open in years. I was curious, would they hold up? Where they really as fab as we remembered?

ALIX: It’s true. Many times things we loved as a child aren’t QUITE as great as we remembered. May I refer you to an ill-fated viewing of Purple Rain I sat through a few years ago? I looooved that movie. Truly. And while the soundtrack still totally rocks my socks, the acting in that film was makin’ more than doves cry….if ya know what I mean.

DOTTIE: Hee! (Alix, you slay me!) But back to today’s session. We thought we would begin with one of my all time favorite authors: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by the one and only Judy Blume. And let me say, it did not disappoint!

ALIX: Oh, I know. It was SO good. For those who have never read it, here’s a lil synopsis:

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, has just moved from New York City to the suburbs, and she’s anxious to fit in with her new friends. When she’s asked to join a secret club she jumps at the chance. But when the girls start talking about boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret starts to wonder if she’s normal. There are some things about growing up that are hard for her to talk about, even with her friends. Lucky for Margaret, she’s got someone else to confide in . . . someone who always listens.

DOTTIE: So, lets talk about the club Margaret and her new bestie Nancy form—the Pre-Teen Sensations (aka the PTS’s)! This really impressed me. I don’t think my friends were so clever to come up with a name for ourselves.  I mean, we did come up with fake band names, but that’s a whole other story.

ALIX: I had forgotten that they all decide they also need new “fancy” names for during the club meetings, and Nancy picks Alexandra.

DOTTIE: Hah! Yes!

ALIX: I remember having mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, NO ONE had my name Alexandra in the 70s. I didn’t meet another one til college. So it was a thrill to see it in print. But then I didn’t like the implication that it was a snooty name!

DOTTIE: So Nancy is the ringleader of the PTS’s and she decides Margaret and her friends need to have bigger bosoms and every day they do a special exercise while chanting, “We must! We must! We must increase our bust!” It’s utterly hilarious.

ALIX: The PTS’s gave me a big flashback. It totally made me remember the girls in elementary school who always knew more about boys than I did. Fifth and sixth grade are such odd years. You’re still young but feel this internal pressure to be grown up.  I have to say I was a late bloomer in the bust department but I don’t really remember having a big desire to have big boobies. How about you?

DOTTIE: I was an early bloomer but was so delighted when I received my first bra. I remember that mixed feeling—on the one hand, “I’m proud, but dear God, please don’t let anyone say anything about it!!” Just act normal, folks!

ALIX: Haha! I remember going to a week long camp in 6th grade and begging my mom to buy me some Jean Nate roll-on deodorant, which all the cool girls already wore! Which she did…bless her.

DOTTIE: I remember DESPERATELY wanted Tickle deoderant! You DO remember Tickle?

ALIX: OMG YES!!!!!! Wow. I just had a flash back.

image: randy randall

ALIX: OK, but back to the book. There are lots of great “adolescent moments” throughout the story as Margaret worries about being the last of the PTS’s to get her period and nervously crushes on various boys.

DOTTIE:  My favorite was Margaret’s crush on Moose. MOOSE!  That budding landscape entrepreneur…  I love how she told the PTS’s she had a crush on the most popular boy in school instead of the guy she actually liked. I remember doing that! Everyone HAD to love Todd Ferguson, but I of course had a crush on some other fellow. Sigh.

ALIX: “Some other fellow”?? Who?? We want names!! haha. OK. so I also loved when they had to watch their first sex ed film, and it was sponsored by the “Private Lady Company”. And Margaret vows to never buy their “feminine products” but instead opts for “Teenage Softies”.

DOTTIE: Which is totally going to be our band name.

ALIX: HAH! That’s brilliant! This book really had me smiling. I think Margaret is such an excellent character. As she struggles with growing up, she makes real observations that make her totally likeable, but then she also makes mistakes which make her feel very honest and “real.”

DOTTIE:  I thought the exact same thing. We’ve all had that feeling. She’s not necessarily particularly fascinating or even someone you want to be, but she is joyously relatable.

ALIX: Speaking of joyous, can we talk about Margaret’s GRANDMA for a moment? I loved her! I had forgotten how great she was. You know she would be featured on Advanced Style if she were here today.

DOTTIE: ZOMG, I loved her too. Sassy and stylish. And going on cruises. My grandparents went on cruises—it seemed like the most glamorous thing a person could do. And then on top of it all, Grandma meets a nice gent too. GO GRANDMA!!!

ALIX: Margaret and her grandmother are extremely close. For some reason one of the things I always remembered was that she hand knit sweaters for Margaret with tags that said, “Made expressly for you….by Grandma” inside. Whenever I’m thrifting and I see a tag like that, I think of this book. I have to say Grandma was much hipper than I remembered!

DOTTIE: One of things that really made the book so much more for me was not just the whole puberty thing, but Margaret’s budding interest in different religions. Poor Margaret—as if puberty weren’t enough for her to wrestle with, she has to deal with all of these feelings around religion.  As a girl who didn’t grow up with much religious knowledge I remember relating to Margaret’s confusion over the different religions.

ALIX: This is where the book has gotten a tad controversial. Margaret’s Dad (and beloved Grandma) are Jewish, and her mom is Protestant. Her mother’s parent’s disowned their daughter and as a result, the parents aren’t religious at all and have a “Margaret can choose when she gets older” stance. Margaret does believe in god, and has candid little “talks” with him. I can’t imagine a book today being so frank and open about these things—a book that is geared towards younger readers, that is. It’s really terrific. (I know today’s Young Adult books are very sophisticated and tackle all kinds of racy issues….)

DOTTIE: There was a lot about that book that made it kinda controversial. In fact NPR did a great interview with Judy Blume discussing this book and others. Certainly worth a read/listen. You just gotta love Judy Blume.  And you have to love Margaret. I bet we’d totally be friends with her today, don’t you think, Alix?

ALIX: Oh totally! But enough of our chatter. What did YOU think? Did you re-read it? What did you remember? And if you didn’t get a chance to pick it up, what are some of the things that stand out in you memory? I have to say this was actually better than I remember and I was sad to see it all end.

Stay tuned to see what next month’s selection is going to be!

 

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36 Responses

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  1. Amber Liddle says

    I love this book still. I heard a rumor that the newer printings have tampons instead of a belted pad, which makes me sad. I love little things like that, they give you a piece of the era in which it was written!

    I always liked how insecure Margaret was, it’s so real. I didn’t know a lot about bras/boys etc, so to have a main character be just as clueless felt nice, instead of reading something about a girl that knows it all.

    I remember being SO excited looking for my period to show up after we got our sex ed talk, just like Margaret did!

    • Alix says

      I totally agree Amber…she’s smart and cool enough that she’s not a nerdling….but she’s not a popular girl either. I thought her confusion and cluelessness were so comforting back then (and totally charming today!). And the belted pad was updated, but it wasn’t with tampons. It was just with the more modern pad, so it didn’t really bother me as much (check out my answer to Jody below!) I could see still girls today reading it and relating better….BUT supposedy some of her other books have, like ipods in them. And that does seem weird!! haha

      • Dottie says

        I so remember the belts and being completely freaked out at the thought of them. I was so sure something like that would show or oddly make noise! Hee hee!

        Great point guys about the cluenessness being comforting as well as charming today. Makes one almost wistful for that time…

      • Amber liddle says

        Whew! Glad it was just regular pads, lol! Bit Sheila the great having an iPod?? I guess they tried to modernize the description of the babysitters club clothes too and I just hate that. Its from a certain time, just let it be!

  2. Jody says

    I totally never got a chance to pick this up, but I feel like I read it enough to be able to talk about my favorite parts. In no particular order:

    1) Every time my friends and I decided to make a club, I suggested the PTS’s as the name. They were SO not into it. Hello, DUH. SENSATIONS!
    2) I always loved when Grandma came and said, “Mountain comes to Mohammad!” She was so super cool. LOVED her.
    3) I always used to fantasize about sending someone a postcard saying I GOT IT!! Alas,never had an opportunity.
    4) Her pad had a belt. a BELT. I remember going looking for pads with my sister and they only had the kind with belts. Two years later, I got my period, and belts were a thing of the past. All be thankful of adhesive!

    OK, that’s all from memory, but I still fully intend to revisit Margaret over Christmas!

    • Alix says

      YESSSSSS. Loved the “If Moses can’t come to the mountain….” line. Grandma ruled. I really loved their relationship.
      I was hoping someone would mention the BELTED maxi pad! I remember that totally sticking with me….it really freaked me out.
      The book I read was a newer version….and it replaced the belt with a regular pad (thankfully NOT tampons!)
      it actually still felt comfortably 70s (which was when I read it….technically the book is pretty timeless, but it felt instantly transported to the 70s! haha)

      And yes, YOU GOT IT!
      😉

      • Dottie says

        The postcard I GOT IT was totally hilarious! Could you imagine getting something like that today? HA!

        I’ll still have that copy to give you Jody!

  3. lishyloo says

    i am sure i have this book around here, you totally made me want to re-read it! i scored a book at the thrift of letters from teens to judy blume, it’s stellar! my biggest memory about this book (margaret) is that it was passed around my 7th grade class in catholic school. i don’t know if it was banned? where we got a copy? why it was all undercover? because FOREVER is much more scandy! but nonetheless, a single paperback book was passed around to all 21 girls in my class! hysterical! i can’t wait for the next book and your back and forth review was so fun to read!!

    • Alix says

      Oh “FOREVER” was totally scandalous! (*whispers*……ralph!!!!) I remember we had one dog-eared copy that someone passed around in class. I don’t think I ever read the whole thing. That other book sounds awesome! The letters from teens. You def need to re-read it. You’ll blow through it in a day!
      xo

      • Dottie says

        I want to read that book of letters written to Judy Blume.

        I don’t think I read FOREVER! Eep! I think it was too scandalous. But somehow I managed to read Flowers In the Attic, which is so much worse than ANYTHING else I could possibly get my hot little tween hands on.

        • Amber liddle says

          A haha flowers in the attic! Nothing like a book about incest! That book still creeps me out to this day!

          • Alix says

            I know!! That book was scandalous….and i read, like, all THREE! (i think there are even more now, but back then there were three I think?)

  4. Jill Browning says

    I didn’t re-read it, but I remember it was the first (and maybe only time) I had ever heard of pads that had to be worn with a belt. Yuck! (that was this book, right?!)

    • Jill Browning says

      Ok, just read the 1st two comments. Pad belt confirmed. Glad I wasn’t the only weirdo that mentioned them. 😉

    • Alix says

      hey jill!
      so yes, the belt!!! I’m glad you guys mentioned it, we were hoping someone would!! (so who’s the weirdo now, eh?? haha) See my comment to Jody below … they DID change the belt, but it wasn’t to tampons (whew!).

      I also read that they added, like, an ipod or imac to some of her other books (Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, i think?) which does seem weird!

  5. bethR says

    omg… TICKLE! i have no idea why now, but when i was maybe 10, a neighborhood friend gave me her partially used tickle (lemon, i think) and man did i like huffing on that stuff.

    i just finished up reading our first childhood classic book to oliver… “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.” we’re on “Ribsy” now and he’s getting “Runaway Ralph” for xmas. maybe “Charlotte’s Web.”

    • Alix says

      LOL Huffing on the Tickle!!! I think my mom (or maybe a friend’s mom?) had the Blue Tickle….the yellow one reminds me of Love’s Baby Soft and Love’s Lemon (which made you smell like you had sprayed Lemon Pledge under your arms haha)

      The Mouse and the Motorcycle is AWESOME!

      • Dottie says

        Mouse and the Motorcycle? I remember the cover but not the story! We need to add that to the book list, lady!

  6. bethR says

    ps: i also loved gee, your hair smells terrific. i would stare at that font on the bottle while i washed my hair in the tub. surprisingly, it looks like it’s still being made.

    • Alix says

      OK, while we’re on shampoos…..”gee, your hair smells terrific” but also herbal esssence!!!

      i never bought was kind of intrigued/horrified by “Body on Tap” the “beer” shampoo!!!!

  7. Amanda [life.edited.] says

    I LOVED THIS BOOK. I did not re-read it for, alas, I am visiting your site for the first time today and I have no idea where my copy actually is. BUT. I love this book so much I had to follow the twitter bread crumbs here and comment. What I remember most: The chanting and bust-increasing, of course. The bras. The wonderful awkwardness of it all and the honesty. Oh, the honesty. Mostly, I just remembered how *normal* this book made me feel. And for a glasses-wearing, perm-bearing, braces-sporting tween, normal felt so, so good.

    Long live Judy Blume!

    • Alix says

      YES!!!! She was so so refreshingly normal. Some books have heroines that are soo over the top geeky awkward. And then others where the girl is super popular or flashy/cool. Margaret was just like us. Sometimes dorky. Sometimes sassy. Just….NORMAL.

      LOVE this comment! (and thanks for finding us! hope you come back!)

    • Dottie says

      Amanda I just adore you for calling yourself a glasses wearing permbearing braces sporting tween. I was right there with ya, lady!

      We are so glad you found us!

  8. Chris Allen says

    Thank you for the reminder. I LOVED this book and all of the Judy Blumes. I read Are You There God and Forever within about a year of each other and all before leaving elementary school. There’s got to be something wrong with that. I intend to scour thrift shops for an OLD copy of the book so I can read it again, belts and all. What an amazing time of life that was. I remember having issues with religion (I’ll tell you about Jesus Camp one day), puberty, boys and training bras all at the same time as Margaret. It was incredibly comforting to read Judy Blumes books at exactly the time when they could do me the most good. I jumped the gun with Forever, to be sure, but it was just laying around unattended in my sister’s room! I had to swipe it.

    Thanks also for reminding me about Teenform bras (my first bra) and Tickle deodorant (I had every flavor). Has anyone mentioned Love’s Baby Soft yet??

    • Alix says

      haha i think we mentioned it at the same time! (I mentioned it in another comment….do you remember Love’s Lemon? It was REALLLLY lemony!)

      So Forever, haha……there was a beat up copy that made the rounds in my 7th grade and no one really read it, just flipped to the “scandalous” part! haha

      RALPH!

      Jesus Camp? Wow.

      • Chris Allen says

        I wore Love’s MUSKY Lemon throughout the late 70’s. I pretended it was to be different from all of the Love’s FRESH Lemon girls out there, but I secretly suspected that my Mother simply couldn’t find the right one. I kept that bottle forever until the contents finally turned into an amber colored goo at the bottom of the bottle. I’ll tell you what, though, I’d wear that scent today if they made it. It was kinda perfect. Not quite as tart as the Fresh Lemon, yet crisp in its own way…

        Yeah, Jesus Camp. My parents NEVER went to Church, by the way, so sending me off to the Word of Life Bible Camp was even more twisted than you might expect. I think they just wanted to be kid free for the summer. I… was traumatized, never to fully recover 😀

        • Alix says

          HOLD UP…..Musky Lemon???? I don’t know if I ever knew of this! And yes, FRESH was the name. Love’s Fresh Lemon Fresh!! Amazing.

          Krazy Jesus Kamp is the most hilarious ever. And yet you managed to turn out fabulous! We should have lunch…..

          • Dottie says

            Musky lemon? That is just too rich for words. Oh, seventies!

  9. jungle dream pagoda says

    I did go out and thrift a copy and re-read it !
    I LOVED re-reading it was so much fun and ……..such memories.
    It immediately brought back how my friends and I were competitive about starting our “P’s and wouldn’t ya’ know it I was the late bloomer in my group.
    When I read it the 1st time I think I totally missed the “Margaret spirituality search ” thang. I have raised my daughters in a similar “let’s explore all religions” way. I wonder if I was subliminally influenced by Margaret?
    Actually, I think Margaret should have gone for Norman Fishbien. You just know he lived in a cool mid century moderne pad ! Did you catch the description of the furniture? Also I think Ms. Fishbien was prolly a pretty groovy chick too…loved the description of her black velvet pants with beaded vintage shell. And she was definitely upstairs downing martinis.

    • Alix says

      YES! Totally! Norman’s house had GREAT descriptions, “The furniture was all angular and sleek.” haha Unlike Nancy’s mom’s house, who appeared to be workin’ the colonial look. So glad you re-read it. I remembered liking it, and I remembered bits and pieces…but it was SO much better than i remembered! We’re the same with religion and perhaps I was influenced as well?

      • Dottie says

        Ha! Margaret totally should have got on the Norman train. I like to think they met each other later in life when they both worked in New York and totally hooked up then!

        I would have loved to hand out with Mrs. Fishbien. I bet she knew how to throw a great cocktail party!

  10. tiffany says

    This post had me thinking again about how, when I checked this book out at my elementary school library in about second grade, the school librarian came into my class later that day and whispered something to the teacher, and then came over and asked me for the book stating that it ‘was only for 6th graders’ and that I was not allowed to check it out! Well after that of course I knew it was something I had to read asap! They even called my mom to tell them what had happened….oh, the good old days when that was all schools had to worry about!!!!

    • Alix says

      WOW, that’s an awesome story. I guess second grade is a LEETLE young to read this! (i say as a mom of a second grader….I’m sure when I was IN second grade I would have been indignant that I was totally old enough to read it! haha)

      thanks so much for sharing!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. The Next MK Little Book Report Club is… – Modern Kiddo linked to this post on March 13, 2012

    […] It’s the return of the Modern Kiddo Little Book Report Club! We all loved Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and chatted about it at great length. […]



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