What You Need to Know:|
• Blubber is a realistic account of bullying in a fifth grade classroom.
• There are some intense, mildly violent scenes where the kids push bullying to the extreme.
• Although it was written in 1974, the kids face many of the same social challenges that they do today – just without
cell phones and the internet.
• There are several of uses of foul language and there is an incident of vandalism during Halloween.
• This book is short but packs a powerful punch and is an important read for all middle schoolers!
Over 35 years after it was first written, Judy Blume’s Blubber still delivers a relevant view of bullying, from the perspective of fifth grader, Jill Brenner. After pudgy Linda presents a classroom assignment on the whale, she is nicknamed “Blubber” by Wendy, the most popular girl at school, and so begins a daily ritual of abuse. While Jill isn’t the leader of the pack, she joins right in, seemingly without any hesitation. Is it peer pressure? When Wendy first writes a note using the name Blubber, Jill smiles, not because she thinks it’s funny but because Wendy is watching her. After that, she participates wholeheartedly.
Over the next few weeks, most of the kids laugh at Linda, call her names, spit at her, and trip her. They even physically hold her down to mess with her clothes and later, to force her to eat something unappealing. Linda lets it happen, doing very little to resist or fight back. In the end, they lock her in a closet and declare that she’s on trial. Of course, Wendy is the judge and this inquiry is anything but fair. Jill thinks that she’ll never be in Linda’s position, but she learns that popularity is fleeting and that her position in the classroom hierarchy only lasts as long as she is willing to go along with the crowd.
These kids seem to feel no remorse. In fact, there is a general lack of respect for their neighbors, teachers and other students. They justify inappropriate behavior by claiming that the person gets what they deserve. They vandalize houses during Halloween and brag about it. Their teachers are oblivious and Jill’s parents are distracted, leaving the action to play out without any supervision. In many ways these kids are still so young, dressing up for Halloween or collecting stamps, and left to their own devices they sink to the lowest level. While none of the characters ever seem to gain much in the way of compassion or feeling, Jill does show readers that they should never let “other people decide what’s going to happen to you” and that there are ways to stand up for yourself. This matter-of-fact, true to life portrayal of classroom dynamics is a must read!
1974, 160 pages
Bullying, Family Life, Friendship, School, Siblings
• Did Jill do the right thing for the right reasons at any point in this story? What impacted her decisions?
• Do any of the kids seem to care about how Linda is being treated?
• Does this story seem realistic to you? Why? Could it happen in your classroom?
• What would you do if you or someone in your classroom was being bullied?
• What could the teachers and parents have done differently?
• How would the internet and cell phones have changed this story?
• Why does Wendy have so much power? What makes the other kids follow her?
• What, if anything, could Linda have done differently when the kids started bullying her?
This recommendation was written by: