Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
It’s 1947 and Sally Freedman is full of wild ideas. She’s got her eye on handsome Peter Hornstein, the Latin lover of her dreams – on Mr. Zavodsky, who looks suspiciously like Hitler in disguise – and on her father, who Sally misses terribly. Whatever happens, 5th grade in Miami Beach will definitely be different. It might even be a real life adventure.
I was just seven years old when World War II ended, but the war had so colored my early life it was hard to think of anything else. No one I knew had actually experienced the war first hand. No bombs dropped on America; my family and friends weren’t starving – we had cozy homes and enough to eat. And yet, as I listened to my parents whispering in the darkness, I couldn’t help worrying that it could happen again. War. And this time the bombs could drop on our houses. Nevermind that Adolf Hitler was supposedly dead. I knew that he’d wanted to kill all the Jews in the world. And I was a Jew.
Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself is my most autobiographical novel. When I was nine and ten I was a lot like Sally – curious, imaginative, a worrier. I was always making up stories inside my head. In my stories, which I never wrote down or shared, I was brave and strong. I led a life of drama, adventure and fame. I think the character of Sally explains how and even why I became a writer.
Some of the Yiddish expressions used by Sally’s grandmother in this book are words I learned from my own grandmother. And Sally’s family is based on my own. The setting, Miami Beach, Florida, in 1947- 48, is real too. I spent two school years living in Miami Beach after the war. Sally’s world is the world as I perceived it, at age ten. A world of secrets kept from children, a world of questions without answers.
Although Sally’s story takes place a long time ago, the story of her family and friends could happen anytime. Some things never change. Sally is one of my favorite characters. I hope she’ll become one of yours, too.
My editor, Dick Jackson, phoned me in New Mexico, where we’d just moved, to tell me he needed a title by the next morning. I didn’t have any ideas. When I woke up the next morning this is what I came up with. A real mouthful!
Frances Goldstein was my favorite aunt. She was a fourth grade teacher for many years, then an elementary school principal. She and my uncle lived in our house with my father during the two school years I spent in Miami Beach. In the book I call her Aunt Bette. No one was more proud of my success as a writer. She became ill while I was writing this book. She lived to see it published which wasn’t nearly long enough. A few years after her death, the library at her school was named in her memory.
“Blume’s narration is spirited and perfectly paced … Clearly there is much of Judy Blume in the main character and her affection for Sally shines through. The novel is as pertinent today as it was when first published.”
–School Library Journal
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