The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale is a touch act to follow, I thoroughly enjoyed this one too.
The best thing about it? The audio version of Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself was read by Judy Blume herself! It was great to listen to her read this to me, especially since she says that this is the most autobiographical of her books. I loved Judy Blume as a child and I loved re-discovering her now.
Sally is a great character for us bookworms. She loves stories and she's constantly making them up inside her head. She reads books, but she also watches movies and she wants to be a movie star. Or a detective. Or a ballerina. So basically she's a pretty typical pre-teen, except that she uses everything around her in the stories inside her head. A great character.
But what I enjoyed most about this book, which I would have no doubt missed if I'd read this as a child, was the social history. Sally and her family live in New Jersey, but move to Florida after her brother gets sick, to provide him with a better climate in which to recuperate. Sally's father stays in New Jersey and visits as often as he can afford to, which is not often enough. When Sally starts her new school in Miami, it turns out that there are loads of kids in the same situation. Loads of displaced families relying on the wonder of the Florida sun. Loads of families living without the father, who is back home where his job is and where they all want to be. Moving to Florida for at least part of the year was what one did if one could afford it.
The other social history aspect I found fascinating was the links to World World II and Hitler. The story takes place in the late 1940s and Sally's family was Jewish; they had relatives in Europe who died in the concetration camps. I don't suppose that any family would talk about Hitler all the time in front of their kids, but I guess some of it would be mentioned. Sally was obsessed with Hitler, to the extent that she was convinced that he was living in her building and she would be the one to turn him in. The whole concentration camp thing must have been a really strange part of kids' lives back then. I mean, they knew some facts, they overheard some stuff, parents probably didn't want to discuss it and they couldn't help but think about it. At one point in the book, Sally's preferred make-believe game was not Movie Star or Detective, but concentration camp, complete with fake showers and everything. What a topic to have to cope with at that age.
So - I really liked this short book. And it was very interesting to read it as an adult, just for the social history alone. Having Judy Blume herself read it to me was the icing on the cake.