Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001. 978-0-689-84158-3
Reasons for challenge/ban: Sexuality, religion
Synopsis: Eleven going on twelve Margaret Simon is anxious about a lot of things: her family moving from New York to New Jersey, making friends, starting at a new school, getting her first period, and the project her teacher assigned. She frequently communicates with God about her life, but she’s not very religious – her mother was a Christian and her father was a Jew, but when they got married, they decided they didn’t want to practice a religion. Margaret wants to learn more about religion and try to decide if she should join the Y or the Jewish Community Center, but with people on either side telling her what to do, she’s just so fed up! Why is being eleven so hard? Why doesn’t anyone understand her and what she’s going through? All she wants is to be normal, but everything (especially her bust and her period) is taking its time and it’s driving her nuts!
Why I picked it up: My aunt recommended it to me when I was eleven going on twelve.
Why I finished it: Margaret faces the same issues and fears of most girls her age, just on a different scale: not everyone is moving or going to a new school, but being a pre-teen is certainly a stressful time, full of anticipation. While the times have certainly changed since it was written (1970), the things we go through when we start to grow up stay pretty much the same. What I love about Margaret’s character is that she’s confused: confused about why her bust is so small, confused about whether or not she should like her best friend’s brother’s friend, confused about her first kiss and who it will be with, confused about why she hasn’t gotten her period, confused about religion, confused about some of the things her friends tell her, confused as to why her teacher is making them do individual projects, confused about why her parents won’t let her do what she wants. These same issues are what other pre-teen girls go through when they approach puberty, and reading about Margaret helps us because she is speaking our same language. Reading the book again as an older reader, I remember how it felt to be anticipating everything but still not fully prepared. Knowing that other people are feeling the same as me (even if they are fictional) helps get you through it because that someone is there for us and understands us in a way that few other people can.
Other related materials: Blubber by Judy Blume; Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume; Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume; Forever…by Judy Blume; Deenie by Judy Blume; It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume; How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell; Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson; Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements; Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClements; Amber Brown books by Paula Danzinger; Growing Up: It’s a Girl Thing by Mavis Jukes; The Dork Diaries books by Rachel Renee Russell