An open letter to Judy Blume
Dear Ms. Blume,
I recently went to the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota—a collection of original works. With anticipation, I opened “your box” and was delighted to find the manuscripts of “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.”
A true Nerdy Moment. Anna with the
original manuscript of her favorite book
Looking at the title scrawled on the file folders, I was immediately brought back to the third grade, standing with my mother in the aisle of Target where she bought me my first chapter book. We went to the library a lot as a family, but purchasing books was a big treat in our home, and I was beyond excited to read this book that my mom told me I had to have. And she was right.
Emotions overtook me as I opened the folder, just as they are right now as I write these words to you. The typed words, “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret” jumped out at me along with some hand written notes. Looking in the folder, I began to cry. It wasn’t the response I was expecting upon seeing your handwriting, yet seeing your drafts of one of my favorite books bought me back to a very important time in my life. I wanted to write you to thank you. Thank you for donating your materials to the Kerlan Collection. Seeing your work and your notes meant something special to me. It inspired me. It reminded me of why I teach elementary students and why I am a School Librarian. In my hectic life as a parent, graduate student, and teacher librarian, I often forget the big picture. Looking at “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret” brought me back to that holy place of me, as a reader.
I have loved reading since I can remember. Snuggled up in a parent’s lap, reading to siblings, or with a book and a flashlight under the covers; books have always been a big part of my life. Books have taken me places and into peoples lives giving me a perspective of the world I otherwise could not have. I read for pleasure and I learn in the process.
As I entered college, I found that I was no longer reading for myself. I was reading to learn, but in the process, I forgot the pleasure in the book—and I lost a bit of myself. My junior year, I took a children’s literature class for teachers. I remember picking up one of your books to reread as an assignment, and for the first time in a few years, I read way past the time that my lights should have been out. I was reborn as a reader. I remembered what it was like to be engrossed in another world.
In that same college class, we had to make a “reading goal” for ourselves. My goal was to read for pleasure for a minimum of thirty minutes a day. It was the best goal I have ever set for myself—and a goal that I have kept. I have found that no matter how busy I am, if I take that time for myself—to read, my life feels just a little bit better.
When I opened up that folder at the Kerlan Collection, all of the joy I get from reading was slammed into me by looking at my first love. Thank you for the work you have done in writing children’s books. “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.” was the first book I truly loved. I have read all of your books, and my favorite still lies in that tale of a young girl growing up. I don’t know how many times I have read it. You write about things that helped me realize that the things I was thinking and feeling as a youth were normal. You taught me so much about growing up. Your books were the opening my mom and I needed to have conversations that were important and real.
Your books helped inspire my love of reading and literature. In turn, I hope that my love of reading becomes my students’ love of reading. I have high hopes, that someday, my own children and my students will go to the Kerlan Collection and open the box of their favorite youth author, and start to cry. Thank you. Without you, I would not be the reader, the teacher or librarian that I am.
Anna L. Zbacnik
Anna Zbacnik is an elementary school librarian in Roseville, Minnesota and has been a member of the Nerdy Book Club for as long as she can remember. She thinks that some of the best books published are those written for 10-14 year olds. She is quite frequently tired because she reads past her bedtime. Anna is raising two Little Nerdy Book Club members. She blogs at: a to z library: http://azlibrarylady.blogspot.com and tweets @a_to_z_library. She is happy to know that she is not alone in her reading obsession.