Are You There God? It's me, Margaret. -- Judy Blume

Clearly, I had to re-read Margaret due to the belt debate.  I hadn't read it since I was... what?  Ten?  Eleven?  I'd forgotten how funny it is.  And how true.  And why it's a classic.

Because it is a classic.  It has the staying power a classic requires.  Yes, it's set in an earlier time, with different fashion and music and fads.  But so is Pride and Prejudice, and that doesn't stop us from our reading and re-reading.  Mr. Darcy's pants will probably always seem silly to me, no matter how well Colin Firth fills 'em out.

Back to Judy.  When I was still working at the (beastly) middle school, I was surprised by the muber of girls who would wander up and tell me how much they loved Margaret and then promptly ask me for another book just like it.  In my head, all I could remember was the sanitary belt and how dated it was.  Out loud, of course, I told them about other Judy Blume books and about the Fitzhugh books and about the Naylor books.  Then I forgot about it until this whole debate started.

It's a funny book, but it isn't belly-laugh-trying-too-hard humor.  It's understated and subtle and realistic.  She's matter-of-fact.  Margaret has no idea how funny she is:

The problem with square-dance lessons was that most of the boys were a lot more interested in stepping on our feet than they were in learning how to dance.  And a few of them were so good at it they could step on us in time to the music.  Mostly, I concentrated on not getting my feet squashed.


My mother was in a hurry to drive home from the square dance because she was in the middle of a new painting.  It was a picture of a lot of different fruits in honor of Thanksgiving.  My mother gives away a whole bunch of pictures every Christmas.  My father thinks they wind up in other people's attics.

This is really embarrassing.  I'd also forgotten how much of the story is about religion.  Granted, I had a heathen childhood, so that aspect of the story must not have resonated quite as much as the puberty and social aspects, but you'd think that the title would have been a little bit of a tipoff.  I mean, DUH.  Margaret's struggle to find her own personal religious identity is so well done -- compassionately and (again) realistically.  The religious and personal struggles her parents have had with their parents is explained in terms of her upbringing, but it stays mostly in the background. The story is about Margaret.  Which is as it should be.

I have three Judy Blume books in my bag to take home tonight.  It's going to be a good weekend.