RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now we're going to sit back and enjoy a tour of beautiful Miami Beach.
GOLDI LIEBERPERSON: (Reading) The water here was warm and clear and blue-green, and when it was low tide, you could walk way, way out.
MARTIN: Those words are from Judy Blume's book "Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself." The book holds special meaning for Alicia Zuckerman of member station WLRN. She met Judy Blume recently and found out how important this place is to Blume herself.
ALICIA ZUCKERMAN, BYLINE: When I was a kid, "Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself" was my favorite Judy Blume book. It takes place in Miami Beach, and a little while after I moved to Miami Beach from New York eight-and-a-half years ago, I realized something felt familiar. I was living in Sally's neighborhood. Thirteen-Thirty Pennsylvania Avenue is where Sally lived. It's also where Judy Blume lived, and that's where I met her on what I'm calling the Sally J. Freedman reality tour.
JUDY BLUME: It was so different. Oh, it was so different. There was a big fish pond in the center of this courtyard.
ZUCKERMAN: And that's in the book.
BLUME: It was always a courtyard.
GOLDI: (Reading) They took a taxi to 1330 Pennsylvania Avenue, a pink stucco U-shaped building with a goldfish with a goldfish pool in front.
BLUME: Those two years were the most important two years of my childhood. We came here for the winters, for the school year, really. For two years, we did this - '46, '47 - '47, '48.
ZUCKERMAN: Judy Blume's family came here because, like in the book, her brother got a kidney infection, and the doctor didn't think it would be a good idea for him to spend the winter up north. That was pretty common back then. There were lots of snowbirds for health reasons, and lots of those families were Jewish like Judy's.
BLUME: My brother was My brother was Bar Mitzvahed here. It was all, you know, grandma, mother and children, and then the fathers stayed behind.
GOLDI: (Reading) Mom opened a door in the wall and pulled down a bed. You see? It fits right into the wall.
BLUME: My mother and my grandmother slept together in that Murphy bed. But you know, I didn't think there was any hardship. I loved it. I loved the freedom of living here. I loved playing outside every night till it got dark. I loved that my mother seemed so much less anxious.
ZUCKERMAN: In the book, Sally's mom is actually incredibly anxious, nervous about everything - athletes foot, airplanes, cats.
GOLDI: (Reading) He was the most beautiful cat Sally had ever seen. But mom said, he might be pretty, but cats can be full of worms, so watch out.
ZUCKERMAN: The book is basically a slightly fictionalized autobiography of Judy Blume's life here.
GOLDI: (Reading) Ms. Swetnick, Ms. Swetnick, Sally called.
BLUME: My fourth-grade teacher, Helen Swetnick...
ZUCKERMAN: That was her real name?
BLUME: That was her real name.
ZUCKERMAN: And you put her real name in the book?
BLUME: You know, I was insane, and nobody stopped me from using real names. But Peter Hornstein is really Peter Hornick.
ZUCKERMAN: Oh, that's pretty close though.
GOLDI: (Reading) Sally felt a tug on her right braid. She whipped around in her seat to tell Peter Hoernstein to leave her hair alone once and for all. And when she did, her...
BLUME: You know he, dipped my braids in his inkwell, though.
BLUME: He did do that. He may have been the first boy I loved (laughter).
ZUCKERMAN: She turned 9 here and then 10.
BLUME: I think it was in these two years that I spent in Miami Beach that I lost my shyness. I was a fearful child. I don't remember being that way here in Miami Beach.
ZUCKERMAN: She still lived a lot of her life inside her head.
BLUME: I played a lot with paper dolls because in my head, I was making up stories. And someone came to my mother and said, she is too old to be playing with paper dolls.
GOLDI: (Reading) Sally heard her say to mom, when my Bubbles was that age, she was sewing her own clothes and reading fine literature from the library.
BLUME: But I wasn't playing with paper dolls like a little kid. I was playing with paper dolls with all of these really exciting melodramas going on inside my head. That's what made me a writer.
ZUCKERMAN: After we leave her old building, we walk over to Flamingo Park.
BLUME: Every Friday night, we went to rollerskating in at the park. I can still remember "Dance, Ballerina, Dance," and that was one of the songs that was played when we were rollerskating.
(Singing) Dance, ballerina, dance.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANCE, BALLERINA, DANCE")
VAUGHN MONROE: (Singing) Dance, ballerina, dance, and do your pirouette...
ZUCKERMAN: From Flamingo Park, we walk over to the beach to look at the ocean.
BLUME: Look at this. Oh, God, it's so great. I love the ocean
GOLDI: (Reading) She loved the ocean, the smell of it, the sound of it, the salty taste.
BLUME: You know, I have a really good memory from my childhood. I think that people who write for and about kids, I think we just have a special connection to our own childhoods.
ZUCKERMAN: And because of that, because of Judy Blume's connection to her childhood, Miami Beach, this place where I live now, holds a special connection to my own childhood. For NPR News, I'm Alicia Zuckerman.
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