Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.
But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.
Margaret is funny and real, and her thoughts and feelings are oh-so-relatable—you’ll feel like she’s talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.
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About the Author
Hometown:New York's Upper East Side, Key West, and Martha's Vineyard
Date of Birth:February 12, 1938
Place of Birth:Elizabeth, New Jersey
Education:B.S. in education, New York University, 1961
Read an Excerpt
Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. We’re moving today. I’m so scared God. I’ve never lived anywhere but here. Suppose I hate my new school? Suppose everybody there hates me? Please help me God. Don’t let New Jersey be too horrible. Thank you.
We moved on the Tuesday before Labor Day. I knew what the weather was like the second I got up. I knew because I caught my mother sniffing under her arms. She always does that when it’s hot and humid, to make sure her deodorant’s working. I don’t use deodorant yet. I don’t think people start to smell bad until they’re at least twelve. So I’ve still got a few months to go.
I was really surprised when I came home from camp and found out our New York apartment had been rented to another family and that we owned a house in Farbrook, New Jersey. First of all I never even heard of Farbrook. And second of all, I’m not usually left out of important family decisions.
But when I groaned, “Why New Jersey?” I was told, “Long Island is too social-Westchester is too expensive-and Connecticut is too inconvenient.”
So Farbrook, New Jersey it was, where my father could commute to his job in Manhattan, where I could go to public school, and where my mother could have all the grass, trees and flowers she ever wanted. Except I never knew she wanted that stuff in the first place.
The new house is on Morningbird Lane. It isn’t bad. It’s part brick, part wood. Also, there is a very nice brass knocker. Every house on our new street looks a lot the same. They are all seven years old. So are the trees.
I think we left the city because of my grandmother, Sylvia Simon. I can’t figure out any other reason for the move. Especially since my mother says Grandma is too much of an influence on me. It’s no big secret in our family that Grandma sends me to summer camp in New Hampshire. And that she enjoys paying my private school tuition (which she won’t be able to do any more because now I’ll be going to public school). She even knits me sweaters that have labels sewed inside saying MADE EXPRESSLY FOR YOU…BY GRANDMA.
And she doesn’t do all that because we’re poor. I know for a fact that we’re not. I mean, we aren’t rich but we certainly have enough. Especially since I’m an only child. That cuts way down on food and clothes. I know this family that has seven kids and every time they go to the shoe store it costs a bundle. My mother and father didn’t plan for me to be an only child, but that’s the way it worked out, which is fine with me because this way I don’t have anybody around to fight.
Anyhow, I figure this house-in-New-Jersey business is my parents’ way of getting me away from Grandma. She doesn’t have a car, she hates buses and she thinks all trains are dirty. So unless Grandma plans to walk, which is unlikely, I won’t be seeing much of her. Now some kids might think, who cares about seeing a grandmother? But Sylvia Simon is a lot of fun, considering her age, which I happen to know is sixty. The only problem is she’s always asking me if I have boyfriends and if they’re Jewish. Now that is ridiculous because number one I don’t have boyfriends. And number two what would I care if they’re Jewish or not?
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
By Judy Blume
About the Book
“Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. We’re moving today. I’m so scared God. I’ve never lived anywhere but here. Suppose I hate my new school? Suppose everybody there hates me? Please help me God.” These opening words of this modern classic have reassured many readers over the years. Even though Margaret’s parents aren’t religious, she hopes God will help her adjust to the move from New York City to a New Jersey suburb, as well as answer her many questions: Will she get her period soon? Will she start filling out her new bra? And, most of all, how can she succeed at being normal?
1. Describe Margaret’s personality. What are her strengths? What do the thoughts and feelings she expresses to God tell you about her? Give specific examples from the text. What are some of the things she learns over the course of the book?
2. How does the move from New York to New Jersey change Margaret’s life? What is different for her in New Jersey? What will she miss about New York? What is she worried about when the book opens? Have you ever had to move or change schools? If so, what was that experience like?
3. Why do you think Margaret is so interested in religion? Why does she talk to God, even though her parents don’t practice a religion? Why does she choose to do her school project on religions, and how does she go about it? Why does she look only at Judaism and Christianity?
4. Margaret emphasizes her desire to be “normal” over and over again. For example, she tells God, “I just want to be normal.” Later she says, “I will wait to find out from you if I am normal or not.” Why do you think she feels this desire so strongly? What do you think she learns about being normal? How does society tend to define normal? How do you define normal?
5. What is Margaret’s mother like? How does she like to spend her time? What is her family history? Name some instances in which she’s helpful to Margaret. When do the two of them disagree? How do they handle the situation when they do?
6. Margaret’s father is initially excited about mowing the lawn. Why does he feel that way? Why does that change? What is his relationship with Margaret like? Give examples from the text. What conflicts does he have with Margaret’s mother, and how does that impact Margaret?
7. In what ways do Margaret’s parents play stereotypical gender roles? How do Margaret and her friends buy into these stereotypes about how girls should act and look? How and why do some of the boys at school emphasize stereotypical expectations about female bodies? Do you think these stereotypes still exist now? Do you see them in your life and school? Explain your answers.
8. Grandma is a key figure in Margaret’s life. Describe their relationship and why Margaret likes being with her grandmother. How does Margaret feel about visiting her? Talk about Margaret’s time at her grandmother’s temple. What is her grandmother’s attitude toward Margaret and religion? How does Margaret react?
9. How do Margaret’s parents feel about Grandma? Why are they surprised when she first shows up in New Jersey? In that scene, explain why Margaret says, “This was fun!” when she sees her parents’ reaction. What kind of information can you glean from witnessing family dynamics?
10. Nancy has a strong personality. How does she welcome Margaret to the neighborhood? Why does she start a club, and what does it entail? Why does Margaret say, “Nancy had a great way of making me feel like a dope”?
11. When does Nancy lie, and why does she do it? How does Margaret find out about the lie? How does she react to it? Have you ever gotten caught in a lie? What did you learn from the situation?
12. Why is it so important to the girls to get their periods sooner rather than later? Why do Margaret and Janie buy bras?
13. Nancy is especially harsh when it comes to Laura Danker. Why do you think that is? What does she say about Laura? Why do the girls envy Laura? Describe Margaret’s encounter with Laura in the library, and what Margaret learns from it.
14. Why does Margaret believe Nancy when she says Laura meets Evan and Moose behind the A&P? Why does she confront Moose about it? How does she feel about him? He tells her, “‘Next time, don’t believe it unless you see it!’” What does he mean by that? Do you think this experience changes how Margaret feels about Nancy?
15. Talk about Mr. Benedict and whether you think he’s an effective teacher. Explain your answers. How do you think he figures out the names to put on the social studies test? How do you think he reacts to Margaret’s letter about religion?
16. Before Margaret’s Ohio grandparents announced their visit, Margaret expected to go to Florida. How does Margaret feel when her mother cancels the trip? Why does her mother make Margaret explain it to Grandma? Discuss the decisions that Margaret’s mother made and their effect on Margaret. How could Margaret or her mother have handled the situation differently?
17. Why is there so much tension around the Ohio grandparents’ visit? Why haven’t they visited in fourteen years? How does Margaret’s mother prepare for their visit? How does Margaret’s father feel about Margaret’s grandparents and their pending arrival?
18. Why does Grandmother Hutchins insist that Margaret is a Christian? Why does she care? How does that assertion make her appear similar to Margaret’s other grandmother? How are the two different? Why do the Ohio grandparents shorten their visit with Margaret’s family?
Dear Margaret . . .
Ask students to choose three of Margaret’s one-sided conversations with God, including one that has to do with her desire to be “normal.” Have students write responses to Margaret from the point of view of a friend. The writing should respond to what Margaret says, incorporate what’s been happening in her life, and offer advice.
Tell Me More
Margaret has a hard time filling out the questionnaire that Mr. Benedict assigns when trying to get to know his students. Invite students to come up with a questionnaire with at least eight new questions that they think would be useful for learning about their classmates. Have students exchange and fill out the questionnaires. Then lead a class discussion on the effectiveness of the experience.
Q&A with Mr. Benedict
What does Mr. Benedict think about his class by the end of the year? Have students work in pairs to write five questions to ask Mr. Benedict about what he learned during the school year and his opinion on specific students, including Margaret. The students should also write the answers that he might give. Then ask each pair to perform the interview in front of fellow students.
Explore World Religions
Margaret explores Judaism and several types of Christianity because she knows people who practice those religions. Invite students to choose one of the world religions that she doesn’t explore, and prepare a multimedia report using print and digital resources. If students can interview someone who practices the religion, have them integrate information from the interview into the presentation. You can provide this list of world religions: Bahá'í Faith, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism.
Put It in Pictures
Many modern classics have been converted into graphic novels. Ask students to choose a scene in the story and put it in graphic novel format, using frames, pictures, text, captions, speech bubbles, thought balloons, and so on. If they aren’t familiar with the format, have students consult graphic novels for ideas on how to incorporate dialogue, setting, emotion, and other techniques. Have students share their scenes.
Guide written by Kathleen Odean, a former school librarian and Chair of the 2002 Newbery Award committee. She gives professional development workshops on books for young people and is the author of Great Books for Girls and Great Books about Things Kids Love
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