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This Blumesday Celebrates Judy, Not Joyce

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Today is Blumesday. Not the Bloomsday where readers celebrate James Joyce's novel Ulysses — that was Sunday. Today's Blumesday is also a holiday for literature lovers — but of a different sort.

Blumesday creators Joanna Miller and Heather Larimer are writers — and they're pretty well-read. But they were never huge fans of Ulysses. "We sort of self-deprecatingly said, 'Well, the only way we could participate in Bloomsday was if were Judy Blumesday.' And then the joke turned into, 'Wait, why aren't we doing this?'" Miller explains.

"We realized that there is a whole community around this writer that feels just as impassioned about her work as people feel about the work of James Joyce," Larimer adds.

So a few years ago, Larimer and Miller pulled this community together, for a new kind of Blumesday: one that celebrates author Judy Blume's young adult fiction.

In addition to Judy Blume-inspired musical performances, these Blumesday celebrations have featured a video chat with the author herself and many dramatic readings from her work.

For Larimer and Miller, part of the appeal is that Blume's writing is just really funny — even for adults — but also it takes you back to those middle school days.

"I think that people treat it like puberty is some sort of threshold that you pass over, and one day you're a kid and one day you're a woman," Larimer says. "That transition takes years and is really awkward and painful."

Miller says Blume's topics — being bullied, getting your period, having your parents divorce — are timeless issues. And they're issues that young readers today are still dealing with.

"But there's not a lot of focus on the things that happen every day and how we process those," says Quinn Sanford, a librarian at King public school in Portland, Ore.

Sanford says that for all of the Hunger Games and Vampire Diaries, books like Blume's still have a place helping kids sort out daily dramas. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret is about menstruation, and it was published in 1970, back when sanitary napkins clipped into elastic belts. Details like those have been updated, and the book speaks to kids today just as much as it did kids 40 years ago.

"When I read [Are You There God? It's Me Margaret] ... it was before I had matured," says eighth-grader Nichele Wilson. "So then I knew what I had to do before it actually happened."

Sanford says that with Blume's books, it's always personal. "When you feel like you've stumbled on a best friend, I think that's a very powerful moment in your reading development," she says.

And Sanford believes that Blume's ability to drop you right in the middle of the adolescent experience — and to do it well — is timeless. "You can always go back to your book, and you always have that same friend there," she says.

High schoolers still lose their virginity, relationships still fall apart and fourth graders still feel like they're nothing — and sometimes, so do grown-ups.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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