There has been a pandemic of Judy Blume-mania in bookish circles this summer as she releases her first book for adults in over a decade, In the Unlikely Event. And we too have got it bad here at 49th Shelf, which is why we asked Suzanne Sutherland, one of Canlit's coolest, to give us a list of great Canadian Judy Blume companions.
1. Superfudge will always have a special place in my heart as the first Judy Blume book I ever read. Or, more accurately, the first Judy Blume book I ever had read to me (thanks, Mom!). The Fudge series follows the antics of the Hatcher family as they negotiate gentle family drama and shifting sibling dynamics.
Superfudge’s Canlit read-alike is The Traveling Circus, by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel:
Similarly to the Fudge series, the Travels with My Family series (of which The Traveling Circus is the latest installment) chronicles one slightly eccentric family’s vacations through the eyes of their long-suffering eldest son, Charlie. Light and funny, while still touching on more serious issues that contextualize their trips, the Travels With My Family series could easily be the Canadian companion to Blume’s beloved Fudge books.
2. The first-ever Judy Blume novel to be adapted for film, Tiger Eyes, follows Davey Wexler as she copes with the sudden death of her father and her family’s temporary move to a new town to distance themselves from the tragedy.
Tiger Eyes’ Canlit read-alike is Since You’ve Been Gone, by Mary Jennifer Payne:
Although their circumstances are quite different, like Davey, Edie Fraser (the protagonist of Since You’ve Been Gone) is also dealing with the sudden loss of a parent in an unfamiliar city. Both of these powerful YA novels also feature memorable maybe-love interests.
3. Purportedly Blume’s most autobiographical novel, Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself is (correct me if I’m wrong!) also Blume’s only work of historical fiction for young readers. The novel follows the titular Sally Freedman as her family moves from New Jersey to Miami for one year and her growth and missteps during this important year.
Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself’s Canlit read-alike is Summer Days, Starry Nights, by Vikki VanSickle:
Middle-grade superstar Vikki VanSickle turned out her first work of historical fiction with the decidedly Dirty Dancing-esque (minus the dirty) Summer Days, Starry Nights. The novel charts struggles and triumphs of Reenie Starr, who, I’m sure, (if their timelines had been slightly more in-sync), would have welcomed Sally J. Freedman to her family’s summer resort like a true bosom friend.
4. Best known for its depiction of teen sex that leaves neither character scarred for life—a distinction that has earned the novel a heaping bucketful censorship—Forever remains a touchstone for discussions around sexuality in YA literature.
Forever’s Canlit read-alike is Tilt, by Alan Cumyn:
Featuring undoubtedly the only female condom in all of Canadian YA literature (and, most likely, the only female condom in YA literature anywhere else in the world, too), Tilt is a strange and strangely tender look at the complicated and non-life-scarring nature of both family drama and teen sex.
5. Blubber, a middle-grade novel about the dynamics of classroom bullying is told from the perspective of one of Linda Fischer's (aka “Blubber”) tormentors who gets caught up in the drama of her friends and fellow mean girls.
Blubber’s Canlit read-alike is Fruit, by Brian Francis:
While Fruit is technically a novel for adults, Peter Paddington (Fruit’s hero) could just have easily been one of Linda Fischer’s classmates. He would have had an awfully tough time, though, being bullied not only by his callous classmates but also by his own nipples.
6. In It’s Not the End of the World, the worst thing Karen can imagine is her parents getting a divorce, and she’s willing to do just about anything to stop it from happening. She keeps a diary and records everything as things in her family go from bad to worse.
It’s Not the End of the World’s Canlit read-alike is We Are All Made of Molecules, by Susin Nielsen:
We know now that divorce isn’t the end of the world, but that doesn’t make the process of blending two families any easier. We Are All Made of Molecules follows Stewart and Ashley, two polar-opposite kids who, with a good dose of humour, manage to survive the upheaval.
7. In Deenie, although it's her mom’s dream that she be a model, Deenie has to face that her life won’t look the way anyone has planned when she is diagnosed with scoliosis and made to wear a back brace.
Deenie’s Canlit read-alike is The New Normal, by Ashley Little:
After the death of her twin sisters, Tamar Robinson begins losing her hair from stress, while her parents lose themselves in their grief. But, like, Deenie, Tamar doesn’t let her physical set-back stop her from living the life she wants.
8. One of Judy Blume’s best-loved novels, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is a classic story about growing up and forging your own identity—which, in Margaret’s case involves sussing out her faith between Judaism and Christianity.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret’s Canlit read-alike is The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden, by Philippa Dowding:
Although more fantasy than any of Blume’s books, The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden captures that same spirit of uncertainty on the cusp of puberty, as Gwennie discovers that, like Margaret, she’s stuck between two worlds: the world of ordinary humans and of Night Flyers.
About Suzanne Sutherland:
When Suzanne Sutherland sent the manuscript of her latest novel, Something Wiki, to her editor Shannon Whibbs at Dundurn Press, Shannon said that it reminded her of Then Again, Maybe I Won’t. Suzanne was not-so-secretly thrilled at the comparison, having breathlessly listened to the audiobook of TAMIW during a family roadtrip when she was nine (hardly believing that she was allowed to borrow books from the library that involved references to naked people). She is Forever grateful to Judy Blume for the ground she broke for young-adult and middle-grade authors to come.
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