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Much as I can’t wait to bid adieu to this sticky humid heat, I’m clinging to my summery reading pile just a little longer before belly flopping into horror season, otherwise known as fall.

Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great is Judy Blume’s second book in the Fudge series, but it stands on its own. I was tempted to skip this one because I remember not liking it as a kid. Judy Blume is on my Completist list so the intention is to read her complete body of work, which means no skippies. Good thing, too. Kid me had some questionable taste.


Sheila Tubman lives in an apartment building in NYC, the same one a certain Peter Hatchman (the fourth grade nothing) lives in with his dumb dog. For the summer, her family gets out of the hot mess that is NYC and goes Upstate to stay in her dad’s colleague’s home in Tarrytown, NY. Does that town ring a bell? Otherwise known as Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown is the same settlement where Ichabod Crane chased the Headless Horseman, according to Washington Irving.

Sheila’s glad she doesn’t have to share a room with her big sister Libby, but does not approve of the dog that comes with the house sit. In the city, she’s witty, outgoing and can do anything; she’s Sheila the Great. In this new place, she’s frightened of the dark, scared of spiders, chased by dogs and her parents sign her up for swimming lessons. Here she has to face these fears without dropping her mask of greatness or who knows what will happen.

Here’s what happens:

Sheila starts to feel more like herself. She gets a clean slate with the new people she meets and finds herself with a best friend for the first time. Her edges soften as she slowly learns she doesn’t have to pretend to be an expert at everything to inflate her greatness – her new friends likes her better when she’s not trying to impress. One day Sheila may even be able to admit her fear of dogs.

Sometimes I think I am really two people. I am the only one who knows Sheila Tubman. Everyone else knows only SHEILA THE GREAT.

Kid me was wrong about this book. I read this on a train and was thoroughly absorbed with Sheila’s small adventures in the pool, playing hide and seek and having a slumber party. It’s a funny book about growth and how getting away from the familiar makes it easier to be her imperfect self. I can see now why it stays with readers.

Other Judy Blume reviews:

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (The first Fudge book)

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself