Blume's Back! Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume
Welcome back, Judy Blume! After a five-year hiatus from children's books, Blume's new sequel to her 1985 hit The Pain and the Great One takes the rival siblings from the picture book to a early chapter format, all decked out with the unique illustrations of the venerable James Stevenson, whose sketchy, squiggly, characters seem always to be in motion.
Main characters Jake, now aged six, and Abigail, now eight, are a bit older, but both are still convinced that their parents love the other best. Jake, named "The Pain" by his slightly supercilious sister, and Abbie, sarcastically nicknamed "The Great One," by pesty younger brother Jake, battle over minor matters as all siblings do. Each, however, learns a lot from the other, and in the way of brothers and sisters everywhere, each adds a lot to family life.
The seven chapters are split between first-person narrations by Jake and Abigail. Jake deals with his newly-acquired phobia of Mr. Soupy, the barber, which his sister finally figures out is caused by a fear that Mr. Soupy will accidentally cut off an ear or two while trimming his hair. Abigail, on the other hand, can't summon up the courage to ride her spiffy blue bike, not because she's afraid of riding, but, as she puts it, "she's afraid of falling." Abbie has to come up with some fancy "pretending" to keep her friends from finding out she can't ride. At last, spurred by the galling fact that Jake rides a two-wheeler like a pro, Abigail fearfully allows her Uncle Mitch to dress her from head to toe in protective garb and finally faces her fear of falling. Despite Jake's jeers of " Weirdo on Wheels," Abigail learns to ride.
Jake and Abigail quarrel over who is best at babysitting their baby cousin, and both are disappointed to find out that what their family is babysitting is actually their aunt's smelly old dog Olive. When Jake can't get Olive into the bathtub, he decides on a shower and a shampoo to shake the stink. The shampoo part goes fine, but when Jake turns on the shower, Olive bolts and Jake gets soaked. Abigail intervenes to get the final rinse job done.
Despite their mutual assistance pact, Jake and Abigail are still a bit jealous over which one of them their parents--and their cat, Fluzzy--loves the best, but their sibling skirmishes are the stuff of normal family life and they can't help occasionally learning from each other. Blume is still the master of telling it like it is when it comes to the problems of childhood, but despite their problems, the Pain and the Great One are doing just fine! In Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, Blume gives Jake and Abigail equal time, but their cat Fluzzy actually gets the last word!
More hilarious tales of sibling rivalry by Judy Blume have recently been reissued in brand-new, dressed-up paperback editions for slightly older readers. Her series about Peter Hatcher, his little brother Farley Drexel Hatcher (a.k.a. Fudge), and his friend Sheila Tubman include Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great,Fudge-A-Mania and Double Fudge.
Two of Blume's noted books for middle school readers (originally titled Just As Long As We're Together and Here's to You, Rachel Robinson) have been republished in one volume under the title BFF*(Best Friends Forever). These and the new editions of her other popular classics should ensure that Judy Blume's books will continue to be read by lucky kids--forever!
For a look at Judy's life and work, her notorious experiences with censorship, and her blog, click here.