Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Let me introduce my friend Sally...

Inspired by Ms. Yingling's post about her BLF (Best Literary Friend), I'd like to post a bit about one of my own BLFs. When I was a kid I often read the same books over and over again. They were my favorites. I loved the characters. I loved the stories. I could pick them up and immediately be somewhere familiar. Fifteen years later, nothing has changed. I can still pick up those books and be transported to a familiar place with characters I love to revisit. This week, yearning for the familiar, I picked up one of my childhood favorites: Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself by Judy Blume.

Sally is ten years old and lives in New Jersey in 1947. The memory of the war is fresh in her mind and it's especially relevant because Sally is Jewish; her aunt and cousin died in a concentration camp. When Sally's brother Douglas gets sick, the doctors think the best thing for him would be to spend the winter in a warm climate. So Sally, her mother, her grandmother, and Douglas pack up and move into a tiny apartment in Miami Beach. At first things are really crummy.

Sally's new school is huge compared to her New Jersey school. She's sure she'll never find her way around. On her first day she wears the wrong shoes and her hair is totally different than everyone else's. It's taking forever to get their phone line hooked up, she has to share a room with her brother, and worst of all is that her father had to stay in New Jersey to work. Sally's trying to be brave and think about her time in Florida as an adventure, but it's not always easy...

There's so much to say about this book that I'm not even sure how to summarize it. I think I liked Sally so much because I was a lot like her. I always made up stories just like Sally does. She pictures herself getting cast in movies alongside her favorite actors (Margaret O'Brien and Esther Williams). She doesn't always understand what grown-ups are talking about, but she'll be darned if she'll admit it. She's a little too inquisitive for her own good, but it's only because she doesn't want to be left in the dark.

I haven't reread this book since I was in grade school and I thought about some things that I never thought about before. Like what happened to Sally's Florida friends when she moved back to New Jersey? Did she stay in touch with them or did she never see them again? When she got back to New Jersey, were things back to normal with her old friends? Did she miss Florida or was she glad to be home?

If you're looking for a new literary friend to get to know, I highly recommend picking up Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself. It's still one of my favorites and it's comforting to know that she'll always be there when I want to feel like I'm ten again.