Everyone remembers their first Judy Blume book. Spend a few minutes talking to your friends about Judy Blume, and it won’t be long until they open up about “the book,” the Judy Blume title that made an impact on their life.
For me, that book was Tiger Eyes, Blume’s 1981 young adult novel about a girl named Davey who is mourning the sudden death of her father and trying to cope with the emotional strain the death takes on her family. Tiger Eyes isn’t always the first book Judy Blume fans might mention. Tiger Eyes, while perhaps not as well known as some of her seminal works like Forever, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, could be considered the sleeper classic in Blume’s oeuvre.
While many other books now cover the territory Blume fearlessly broke ground on decades ago, Tiger Eyes remains an unmatched and timeless young adult novel about dealing with grief. Davey’s father’s death changes her whole family, and Blume does an amazing job showing how the sadness has decimated Davey and changed her fundamentally. The story remains instantly accessible to teens, most of whom are looking for a way to define themselves. In Tiger Eyes, Davey learns to do that while also maturing, mourning, and even falling into first love.
Why Tiger Eyes as my favorite Judy Blume book? It was a combination of factors: Davey herself is a great character, trying to figure her way back to the person she was before and beginning to realize that may not be possible and Tiger Eyes is a moving story of deep grief and loss, which resonated with me as a preteen. Oh, and, of course, there were the undeniable charms of Wolf, the enigmatic Native American boy who Davey meets and connects with. But perhaps what drew me to Tiger Eyes most of all was the setting: Los Alamos, New Mexico. I didn’t live in Los Alamos at the time, but as a New Mexico native reading Blume’s perfect descriptions of New Mexico’s physical landscape, our wide open desert skies and huge mountains, I was captivated by the idea a story so moving, so romantic, so real could happen where I lived.
As an adult, I moved to Los Alamos to work as the youth services librarian at the local public library and found I was still looking around every corner for Wolf! I haven’t found him yet, but last week here in New Mexico, production began on Tiger Eyes. Working from a script that Blume wrote with her son, Lawrence Blume (perhaps best remembered by readers as the model for the fictional character Fudge) and with Willa Holland and Tatanka Means cast as Davey and Wolf, Tiger Eyes marks the first big-screen cinematic adaptation of a Judy Blume’s work. The film will be Holland and Means’s largest roles to date. It’s especially worth noting (and celebrating!) that in an age of Hollywood white-wash casting (as prominently seen in this summer’s Avatar: The Last Airbender) the production chose a Native actor to play a Native role.
Blume has been hands-on in the production, tweeting her updates and her excitement (@judyblume) as filming progresses. The independent film will look for distribution when production wraps. Hopefully, a distribution company with a staff full of Judy Blume fans will snap it up and get it into theaters so grown-up fans (and teens who don’t know they’re fans yet) can experience Davey and Wolf’s world on the big screen.
What other Judy Blume classics do you think are deserving of the big screen treatment? Would you buy a ticket for Tiger Eyes? As a New Mexico native, a lover of young adult literature, and someone still looking for her own Wolf, I plan to be first in line!
Angie Manfredi is a youth services librarian who blogs at www.fatgirlreading.com, where you can find her thoughts on young adult literature, libraries, pop culture, and fat acceptance. She'd take Peeta Mellark over Edward Cullen any day.
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