Posts Tagged kidlit

Judy Blume: The Author, the Legend… The MOVIE!

Judy Blume, author

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was the first book I bought with my own money. Later, Judy signed it for me at a meet-and-greet at Eeyore’s, the iconic and sadly, now defunct children’s bookstore on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

“To Melissa,” she inscribed. “Love, Judy Blume.” Yes, Judy had written “Love” in my book. This was more valuable than my collection of Bonne Bell Lip Smackers and Wacky Packages combined.

Margaret: The OG

I read Margaret obsessively, for months. Soon, my once-pristine paperback felt apart (above, left) and I retired it to my bookshelf, only to be brought out for special occasions, like birthdays, or to impress my friends. I purchased a new Margaret (this time, my mom paid for it), and when that copy fell apart, I bought another. And another. And then another…

I Must… I Must… I Must Increase My…

As a voracious reader with an underdeveloped body and an overactive imagination, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret—which was published in 1970, when books weren’t banned for using words like “menstruation,” “masturbation,” and “wet dreams”—had an enormous impact on me. I could relate to Margaret’s yearning for breasts, and for her period, and for her desire to impress the girls in Nancy Wheeler’s secret club, the Four PTS’s. And who could begrudge Margaret’s crush on Philip Leroy? Sure, Jay Hassler was nicer, and he had clean fingernails, but Philip Leroy was hot.

Margaret Simon, Movie Star

With that in mind, you can imagine my reluctance to see the movie version of Margaret. I knew it couldn’t possibly be as good as the book, but I was too curious not to go. Plus, my 23-year-old daughter, an avid Margaret fan too, gamely agreed to go with me. So, off we went.

I was grateful to see how closely the movie hewed to the book, especially its 1970s setting, updated and enhanced by a more inclusive and diverse cast. Abby Ryder Fortson, the 15-year-old star, brings Margaret to life, with a perfect combination of moxie and self-reflection, and Kathy Bates, whose incomparable comic timing makes Margaret’s grandma, Sylvia Simon, sparkle like a Swarovski crystal, gives a standout performance as well. Other notables include Elle Graham as alpha girl Nancy Wheeler; Isol Young, as the misunderstood Laura Danker; and Amari Alexis Price as Margaret’s effervescent pal, Janie.

But the best part of the movie…?

The cameo of Judy Blume walking her dog, along with real-life husband, George Cooper. I could have watched that all day. 😀 (For more on Melissa’s admiration for Judy Blume, check Are You There Judy? It’s Me Melissa.)

Kidlit Authors ❤️ Judy Blume

I asked MUF contributors and other children’s authors—including bestselling author and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who illustrated the fabulous Simon & Schuster Judy Blume book-cover reissues (see above, and below)—to share their admiration for the Queen of Kidlit.  Here’s what they had to say…

Debbie Ridpath Ohi

“While I was growing up, reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret helped me realize that I wasn’t the only one thinking these crazy thoughts, and that everything was going to be okay.”

Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrator of the Simon & Schuster Judy Blume book-cover reissues and award-winning author and illustrator. Learn more about Debbie on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

(For more on Debbie’s experience illustrating the Judy Blume cover reissues, click here.)

Beth McMullen

“I saw the movie with a group of friends, and we agreed it felt like a surreal trippy visit to the 1970s that felt faithful to the book. I had completely forgotten about the religious exploration part of the book, which reminded me how much that resonated with my young self. I grew up in a very small, very Christian town and I was a weirdo transplant from New York City who was raised in a non-religious household.

Looking back now, I release how strange it was to identify as ‘not’ something, rather than as something, and how often I was called upon to defend my lack of religious affiliation in this community. Most middle-grade authors I’ve met have, at some point, felt like they were on the outside looking in, and this was certainly my experience around religion when I was young.”

–Beth McMullen, MUF member and author of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series,  Lola Benko: Treasure Hunter series, Secret of the Storm series, and others. Find Beth on LinkTree and check out the Writers with Wrinkles podcast, which she co-hosts with MUF member Lisa Schmid.

Tonya Duncan Ellis

“Judy Blume was like that Big Sis who knew everyone’s secrets. I’ve read all of her books for tweens and teens, and they definitely influenced me as I wrote The Snitch and other books in my Sophie Washington series. Beloved characters like Fudge, Margaret, and Sheila the Great stay with me as an adult and played a huge role in making me a reader and book lover!”

Tonya Duncan Ellis, author of the Sophie Washington series. Learn more about Tonya on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Chris Baron

“Like most kidlit writers, when I hear the name Judy Blume–I smile. I also think of Blubber, and the sharp white curves of the lettering on the cover. I watched that book spin on the fifth-grade book carousel while Mrs. Goldberg taught us math problems. I wanted to read it but was told the subject matter was a little ‘too much’ for me. But one day, I tucked it beneath The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. I Immediately identified with Linda [aka ‘Blubber,’ the character bullied for her weight] for her demeanor and size, and the truthful and brave way Blume wrote this story. I felt like it had been written for me.

Whenever I read any of Judy Blume’s books, I still feel connected to Blubber. In my deepest writerly dreams, I hope that I can write books like this–with honest, memorable characters whose focused and relational stories are as intimate as a Sunday afternoon with friends, and as universal as the questions they make us ask about ourselves.”

Chris Baron, author of All of Me, The Magical Imperfect, and The Gray (out 6/13). Visit Chris on his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather Murphy Capps

“I can’t understate the influence Judy Blume had on my life as a young person. My BFF in grades 3-7 was Michelle, and we read Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret together– multiple times. Feeling deeply connected with Margaret’s narrative, we helped each other figure out how to use maxi pads, monitored our (seemingly slow-motion) progression toward puberty, and cheered each other on as we checked off those all-important development milestones. (“We must, we must, we must increase our bust!”) I think Margaret contributed to the foundation of that friendship, which was a fundamentally important part of my life during those years. (Sadly, we lost touch.)

As a writer, Judy Blume’s work serves as mentor text—a running tutorial every time I craft or edit character arc and emotional resonance. Blume’s work is timeless, and her influence on the MG space is one I will always appreciate, honor, and hope to emulate.”

Heather Murphy Capps, MUF member and debut author of Indigo and Ida. Learn more about Heather on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Sally J. Pla

“I just finished watching the Judy Blume documentary (I loved it, of course). What moved me most was when Judy got choked up and cried, remembering one word in one book: The F word. It appears once, at a critical moment, in Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson. Her editor told her it would cause banning, but he supported whatever decision she made about leaving it in or taking it out. Judy resolved not to take it out. Because censoring herself wouldn’t be true to the story, true to the character, true to her readers or herself. And in recalling this decision, she broke down in tears. Those tears moved me so much. Such a small thing: one word. Such a big, important thing: artistic integrity. This loyalty to her vision, and to her readers’ real lives, will always stay with me.”
–Sally J. Pla, author of The Someday Birds; Stanley Will (Probably) Be Fine, and the forthcoming The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGee; creator/editor of A Novel Mind. Find  Sally on Linktree.

Mae Respicio

“Judy Blume’s books took me through girlhood with glimpses of love, friendship, and periods… Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was such a heart book for me that I was specifically asked by my beloved elementary-school librarian, Mr. Reilly, to take a break from checking it out so that other kids could have a chance to read it. And as a middle-grade author who writes about everyday kids in their everyday worlds, her books were one of my very first inspirations.”
Mae Respicio, author of How to Win a Slime War, Any Day with You, and The House That Lou Built. Learn more about Mae on her website, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Carol Weston

“So many girls identify with Margaret. Me, I identified with Judy. My first book was Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You, and Newsweek once called me a “Teen Dear Abby.” But I didn’t want to be Dear Abby, I wanted to be Judy Blume. I wanted to write fiction. I was over 40 when I finally made the leap.Did it help that I heard Judy speak at Marymount College? I think so. Her beloved father, like mine, had died too young, and she choked up talking about her grief. Getting rejections was hard too, but she persevered. She was so real and so radiant. So generous. I was starstruck. Still am.

I love the new movie, of course, and also the new documentary. Judy said she went to a therapist because it was such a responsibility to recieve so much mail from girls. I’ve been an advice columnist at Girls’ Life since 1994 and have sometimes felt buried in letters. I appreciated Judy’s therapist’s advice: “You can’t save everyone.” True. But I love that Judy hasn’t given up on trying. I’m a fan. Forever!”
–Carol Weston, author of Speed of Life, Girltalk, the Ava and Pip series, and more. Learn more about Carol on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Mindy Alyse Weiss

“I remember how much I LOVED Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and how relatable yet shocking it was, in the best possible way. Judy really changed kidlit! The novel that made the biggest impact on me as a kid was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Later, while getting my degree in elementary education, I saw the magic of reading it aloud—and of course I read it to my daughters. My oldest was in kindergarten, the youngest in preschool, and they sat, mesmerized, begging me to read another chapter or two before stopping for the night.”

–Mindy Alyse Weiss, Mixed-Up Files contributor, MG author, and host of #PBParty and co-host of #PBFest. Learn more about Mindy on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Faran Fagen

“I enjoyed reading Judy Blume’s book growing up, because I felt like she spoke to me. I actually met her in Key West, at her bookstore. She was so nice, and took a whole bunch of pictures with me and then signed her new book, which I bought for my wife. As far as the documentary, I couldn’t stop watching it, and I plan to watch it again. The most striking takeaway was that no matter how famous she got, or how much her life changed, Judy always took the time to connect with children—her readers—and put them first.”

Faran Fagen, Mixed-Up Files contributor, teacher, journalist and MG author. Find Faran on Facebook and Twitter.

Kellye Crocker

“Judy Blume has had a tremendous impact on me, both as a lifelong reader and writer. She told the truth to young people. That’s powerful and an incredible gift. Many of novels I read as a kid painted a false, saccharine picture of what life was supposed to look like, so I distinctly remember the shock I felt at reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Here were girls like me, worrying about periods, boys, fitting in, and existential questions like: ‘Does God exist?’ and ‘Will I ever need a bra?’ (My mom refused to take me shopping for one until a boy in my fifth-grade class drew a picture of me with two dots on my chest. Deeply mortifying! But I’m…fine… Really! Um…I mean, mostly.)

Judy Blume’s books are funny and entertaining, and I devoured them all. But they were so much more. Validating. Informative. It was as if Judy showed us a secret world that other adults pretended didn’t exist—like what happens to boys during puberty. (No one told me!) I still remember someone’s well-loved copy of Forever being passed around the middle-school bus—with certain passages marked, of course. (They didn’t tell me about that, either!)

Judy was one of the first authors to write truly realistic fiction for and about young people, and she paved the way for other authors, and for me. She’s also fought tirelessly against censorship and the folks who believe they have the right to decide what other people’s kids should read. Judy Blume is a national treasure!”

–Kellye Crocker, debut author of My Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Anxieties. Learn more about Kellye on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Wendy McLeod Macknight

“I was in grade six—small for my age and two years away from getting my period—when I heard rumblings about a BOOK. And not just any book, a book written by a female author who KNEW what it meant to be twelve years old and feeling less than. Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret was being passed from girl to girl like a sacred text, but I couldn’t wait: I used my savings to buy my own copy and devoured it in one sitting. Then promptly reread it. It was the first book I’d ever read that addressed the inner lives of young girls. Judy Blume got us. She KNEW. She UNDERSTOOD. We were no longer alone.

She became my patron saint, her work a beacon of safety and understanding as I navigated the choppy seas of middle school. I’m not sure Judy Blume made me want to be a writer, but I do know this: Judy Blume made me believe things would be okay. And honestly? That was everything.”

Wendy McLeod MacKnight, author of The Frame-Up, The Copycat, and It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! Follow Wendy on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Rosanne Parry

“I saw a preview of the movie a few weeks ago, and I was really touched by it. I was happily surprised to see that they kept the early Seventies setting. Even nicer to see all the glory and agony of girl friendships played out so beautifully, without cellphones, cyber bullying, or the continuous drumbeat of gun menace that children face today.”

Rosanne Parry, Mixed-Up Files contributor and New York Times bestselling author of A Wolf Called Wander, A Whale of the Wild, and the upcoming A Horse Named Sky. Learn more about Rosanne via her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Summer Reading: Summer Fun

As the weather is warming up, summer reading season begins. Why not create some summer reading traditions to make reading even more fun? Below are a few ideas.


  • Get outside! Lean into the nice weather and explore outside reading spots. This could be the front porch, the shade of a tree, or a local park. This can make summery books come alive even more, gives readers some fresh air, and can turn reading into a place-based habit. Patricia Bailey’s Take A Hike: An Outdoor Adventure Book List article provides excellent recommendations for books to read in the great outdoors.





  • Have special snacks! Whether it’s popsicles or homemade lemonade, having a refreshing summer treat reserved only for reading time can solidify the joys of reading for young readers. This Easy Homemade Lemonade recipe from Lovely Little Kitchen is something young readers can help make too!



  • Take a weekly trip to your library! Many local libraries host summer reading programs with reading suggestions and prizes included. This turns summer reading into an exciting event, fosters a reading community, and encourages the discovery of new books. For more information about reading challenges (and how to make summer reading fun), check out Stacy Mozer’s post on Encouraging Summer Reading.



  • Plan it out! Make an activity out of selecting a summer reading list. You can cut stiff paper into 3 x 6 inch rectangles and invite each young reader in your life to print the names of the books they want to read this summer on the front of it and decorate the back with drawings of their favorite summer place to read. Now they have a visional representation of books they want to read and a bookmark all in one. For a free printable bookmark with other summer reading ideas, you can check out my No Rules Reading.


Summer reading can define the season and creating traditions that celebrate reading can help create lifelong readers. Plus, summer reading is something the whole family can enjoy!

Author Matt McMann Gets Monsterious!

I was so excited when Escape From Grimstone Manor, book one in Matt’s new series Monsterious, showed up at my house. While book mail is always a thrill, this spooky read was high on my list. And of course, Matt did not disappoint. I read it in one sitting!

Monsterious is pitch-perfect middle grade, ideal for both reluctant and avid readers, and fans of Goosebumps and Five Nights at Freddy’s. Each book comes in at fewer than 200 pages, and every chapter ends with a chilling cliffhanger that will keep kids turning the pages. With the first two books publishing simultaneously, each book in the series completely stands alone, with a different setting and main characters—and different monsters—in each installment, and can be read in any order. I see these books as a great addition to summer reading lists.

And fortunately for us, Matt was up for chatting about Monsterious and how it came to be.


Welcome, Matt! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us over here at Mixed Up Files! Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired the Monsterious series? Can you remember the spark?

My wife, author Lisa McMann, was reading an article aloud and mispronounced the word “mysterious” saying “monsterious” instead. I said, “That would be a great middle grade book title,” and she replied, “No, it’s a whole series, and you should write it.” So I did! I loved the idea of crafting a series of spooky middle grade monster mysteries.



In Escape from Grimstone Manor (series book #1) is there one character you identify with the most?

Escape from Grimstone Manor features three best friends who are trapped overnight in a haunted house amusement park ride and discover the monsters are real. Taylor is outgoing, brave, and spontaneous to a fault. Zari is cool, level-headed, and intellectual. Mateo is timid, cautious, and artistic. While there’s a bit of me in all of them, I definitely relate the most to Mateo. I was a scared, artistic kid like he is!




The books in the Monsterious series can also stand alone. What made you decide on this approach? What are the challenges of starting over with a whole new cast of characters each time? 

Since the idea for Monsterious came as a series concept vs. an individual book concept, I took the opportunity to choose the type of monster mystery series I wanted to write before thinking of the stories themselves. A dynamic series features the same characters in a multi-book story arc (ex: Lord of the Rings). A static series features the same characters in episodic adventures (ex: Nancy Drew). In an anthology style series, the books are tied together by a place or an idea or a theme, but each entry is a standalone story with a unique cast of characters (ex: Goosebumps).

I chose an anthology style series because I liked the freedom it gave me to write about any monster, anywhere, with anyone. Since it’s a less common format, I thought it might help me stand out to editors in a crowded marketplace. Not being constrained by a single meta story arc was also appealing—I knew if I could sell Monsterious to a publisher and find an audience, then I could write in this series for a long time, which I would love.

The challenge with this type of series is needing to write new characters for each installment who are both interesting and well-rounded. There’s also a lot of names to come up with! It definitely takes additional work and imagination, but it’s totally worth it.

What do you hope young readers will take away from your books?

I was a scared kid. I grew up being afraid of almost everything—the dark, bullies, the woods, our basement. But I loved spooky stories. Seeing the characters in those books face their fears gave me the courage to face my own. And they were just so cool! I hope readers will find the same courage and fun in Monsterious books that I found when I was that age.

What was your favorite book as a kid? Did you like scary stories?

I had so many! I read a lot of adventure and sci-fi books when I was quite young, then got hooked on fantasy with the Earthsea trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was a game changer for me. I was captivated. That led me to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and then I checked out every book in the library on Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, werewolves, vampires, you name it!

What do you mostly read now?

I’m reading a lot of great middle grade to steep myself in the voice and emotions of that age group. Lindsay Currie writes incredible spooky middle grade, and Starfish by Lisa Fipps was fantastic. I’m reading a lot of standout realistic contemporary work from my 2023 debut middle grade author group, including Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt, It Happened on Saturday by Sydney Dunlap, and Miracle by Karen Chow.

Talk to me about your path to publication. Did you encounter surprises or unexpected twists in the road?

I wanted to be author since I was a kid, but studied music in college and was a professional musician for twenty-six years. When I burned out on music about five years ago, Lisa suggested I go after my dream of writing books. We went to a hotel for a weekend getaway, and she said we couldn’t leave until I wrote my first chapter!

I had a chance to pitch that first book to an agent over dinner and he requested the manuscript. After reading it, he said it had potential but needed a lot of work, and if I was willing to make significant edits, he’d read it again. I did everything he suggested, and after that second reading, he signed me!

We went on an exclusive submission to an editor at a Big Five publisher, and she said the same thing—it had potential but needed a lot of work, and if I’d do some edits, she’d read it again. I made her changes, she liked it, and said she was taking it to her team. I was floored. What I thought was going to be a throw-away practice novel not only got me an agent, it was going to get me a book deal on my first submission! And then it didn’t. The team wasn’t excited, and she passed. The manuscript went out on multiple waves of submissions for over a year and never sold.

During that time, I wrote a second book. That went out and got rejected by everyone. I wrote a third book that never even went out on sub. Then I came up with the idea for Monsterious, and my agent loved it. He took it on an exclusive submission to Penguin Random House, and it sold immediately in a four book deal. My childhood dream has come true!

You have the good fortune to be married to New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann. What did you learn from watching her journey that helped with your own?

I was the luckiest aspiring author in the world to have Lisa as my mentor and writing coach. I’ve learned too many lessons from her to count, but one of the biggest was that being an author is business. If you want a long-term career, you need to know as much about marketing and admin as you do about writing. I think that’s where a lot of really talented writers struggle—to think and operate like a small business. Lisa is the most creative person I know, but she also has a great business sense, so I’m trying to emulate that in my own career.

What advice would you offer to aspiring authors of all ages?

  1. Read great authors
  2. Write what you love
  3. Find a supportive writing community
  4. Share your work with writers you trust and believe their critiques
  5. Listen to good writers talk about writing (podcasts, videos, webinars, books, live events, etc.). I highly recommend the Writers With Wrinkles podcast for craft, inspiration, and entertainment value!
  6. Write! Practice, practice, practice, and don’t give up

Do you have any writing rituals you swear by?

When drafting, I write at least 1000 word a day. Having that as a minimum gives me a clear sense of accomplishment and, when I know my target book length, allows me to map out how long it will take me to complete a first draft. I also start each drafting session by editing what I wrote the previous day. It gets me back in the flow of the story and when the draft is completed, I’ve already finished one round of edits.

Where can readers best find you if they want to reach out?

I really pumped about my newly revamped website (thank you Deena at!). Readers can contact me there and get my free spooky short story for signing up for my newsletter. I’m also @matt_mcmann on Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you, Matt!