What happens when teasing goes too far? This classic middle grade novel from Judy Blume addresses the timeless topic of bullying and has a fresh new look.
“Blubber is a good name for her,” the note from Caroline said about Linda. Jill crumpled it up and left it on the corner of her school desk. She didn’t want to think about Linda or her dumb report on whales just then. Jill wanted to think about Halloween.
But Robby grabbed the note and before Linda stopped talking it had gone halfway around the room. There was something about Linda that made a lot of kids in her fifth-grade class want to see how far they could go…but nobody, Jill least of all, expected the fun to end where it did.
In an honest exploration of childhood bullying, this storyis told from the perspective of the bully. While she's not the worst in her class, Jill still participates in bullying Linda, and it takes a drastic turn of events for Jill to understand the consequences of her actions. Written in Judy Blume's celebrated candid style, Blubber is a story of bullying, self-discovery, and what makes a true friendship.
Reading Group Guide
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1. Consider the opening sentence of the novel: “My best friend, Tracy Wu, says I’m really tough on people.” (Chapter one). Trace Jill’s interaction with classmates throughout the novel. How is Tracy’s assessment true?
2. What is the difference between teasing and bullying? How does teasing sometimes lead to bullying? Explain why the kids start bullying Linda. Why is she an easy target for bullies like Wendy? Discuss why Jill is so willing to follow Wendy in the “get Linda” scheme.
3. Describe Mrs. Minish as a teacher. How are her students engaged in bad behavior right before her eyes? Why does Wendy’s behavior continue to go unnoticed? Explain how Mrs. Minish could have stopped the bullying before it got out of hand. Contrast Mrs. Minish and Miss Rothbelle, the music teacher. Explain why the kids laugh when they sing a song with the word breast. Describe the kids’ plot to embarrass Linda during their performance. Discuss Miss Rothbelle’s reaction when Linda is the only student that sings the word.
4. Jill decides to be a flenser for Halloween. How is Linda naive about Jill’s costume choice? Jill is convinced that she will win the prize for the most original costume. Why is winning so important to Jill? How does she react when she doesn’t win? Explain why her costume is mean-spirited rather than original.
5. Wendy dresses as a queen. How is this an appropriate costume for her? Donna Davidson loves horses and usually wears a horse costume. This year she dresses as a jockey. Why does Jill refuse to tell Donna that she likes her costume? Describe Fred Yarmouth’s costume. How does he make something out of nothing? Discuss how he demonstrates creativity and originality.
6. Jill says that she would never smash anyone’s jack-o’-lantern. How does she justify putting rotten eggs in Mr. Machinist’s mailbox? Explain why she and Tracy think he deserves it. Debate whether this is an innocent Halloween trick or an act of vandalism. Why is Jill convinced that Linda squealed on them? Describe Linda’s trial. What goes wrong?
7. Describe the scene when the girls torment Linda in the restroom. How does Jill sense that they’ve gone too far? What prompts Jill to have the conversation about teasing and bullying with her mother? Discuss Mrs. Brenner’s advice: “‘You should try putting yourself in her place.’” (Chapter seven). Why is Jill so convinced that kids like Wendy won’t bother her?
8. The Brenners attend Warren Winkler’s bar mitzvah. What is significant about Jill and Linda Fischer lighting the thirteenth candle on Warren’s birthday cake? Describe the conversation between the two girls. Trace what happens between them following the bar mitzvah.
9. At what point does Jill become Wendy’s victim? Why is it difficult for her to take her mother’s previous advice and laugh it off? How does Tracy show more courage than Jill by standing up to Wendy? Tracy tells Jill, “‘I think you’re scared of Wendy.’” (Chapter sixteen) Debate whether Tracy is correct. Discuss what makes Linda agree to being Wendy’s partner on the class field trip.
10. Mrs. Brenner smokes, and Jill tells her how harmful it is. Identify other socially sensitive topics mentioned in the book. The novel was first published in 1974. Debate whether these topics were considered socially sensitive at that time.
11. There are adults who disapprove of this novel because some of the characters curse. Explain what Jill means when she says that kids curse when their parents “make a big deal out of those words.” (Chapter eleven) What is Mrs. Brenner’s attitude toward cursing? How is it natural for kids to experiment with things that are forbidden? Compare Jill’s thoughts about cursing with the reason kids gravitate toward banned books.
12. Why do you think Blubber is one of Judy Blume’s most banned books? Adults often express concern about the way the kids treat one another. How accurate is the behavior in Blubber?
13. There is much focus on Wendy, but Jill is the main character. How does she change by the end of the novel? Debate whether kids like Wendy ever really change.
Guide written by Pat Scales, a retired middle and high school librarian who is currently a children’s and young adult literature consultant and specializes in curriculum and free speech issues.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Judy Blume, one of America’s most popular authors, is the recipient of the 2004 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of beloved books for young people, including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (which celebrated fifty years in 2020), and novels for adult readers, including Wifey,Summer Sisters, and In the Unlikely Event. Her work has been translated into thirty-two languages. Visit Judy at JudyBlume.com or follow her on Twitter at @JudyBlume.
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 29, 2014)
Length: 208 pages
Grades: 3 - 7
Ages: 8 - 12
Lexile ® 610L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®