Parkway service area named to honor Jersey author Judy Blume

Jersey born author Judy Blume, who’s written award winning books beloved by children and best sellers for adults has a home state honor few of her peers have – a Garden State Parkway service area named for her.

On Tuesday morning, the name Monmouth Service Area came down and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which runs the Parkway, installed new signs at the recently renovated food and gas stop in Wall, officially naming it for Blume. It’s one of 9 Parkway service areas renamed to honor famous state residents and announced on July 27, National New Jersey day by Gov. PhilMurphy.

It is the fourth service area renamed by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which runs the Parkway, to honor New Jersey Hall of Fame inductees with the installation of signs. That area was reconstructed with a new building that opened in May 2019.

Unlike the Jon Bon Jovi service area which features exhibits and holographic images of the rock star, exhibits about Blume’s achievements haven’t been installed inside the service area buildings yet.

Blume, 84, an Elizabeth native, is one of the most influential and well-known authors of children’s books in the world today. She grew up in the Union County city, “making up stories in her head” as a child, according to her website.

Her 29 books have sold 90 million copies in 32 languages. Her best-known works by her are “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret,” “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” “Deenie,” and “Blubber.” New York Times bestsellers include “Wifey,” “Smart Women,” “Summer Sisters” and her most recent “In the Unlikely Event.”

During her career, Blume has received more than 90 literary awards, including the Library of Congress Living Legends Award, the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and the American Library Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2010.

But her Jersey honesty in writing came with a price. The American Library Association has consistently placed Blume at or near the top of its list of authors most frequently banned. Blume in turn has worked with the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) to support teachers and librarians who fight to keep those books on their shelves.

In 2009, the NCAC honored Blume’s longstanding defense of free speech and her courageous battles against all kinds of censorship, the website said. She was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2004 and the Library of Congress’ Living Legends award in 2000.

Signs renaming the Monmouth Service Area on the Garden State Parkway for author Judy Blume Service were installed on March 29.

As recently as 2021, she was honored by Yale University with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree and the National Coalition Against Censorship’s Free Speech Defender Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to her. She and her husband run an independent bookstore in Key West Florida.

As the most recent renaming, the Blume Service Area follows the recent renaming of Cheesequake for rock star Jon Bon Jovi, Forked River for salsa star Celia Cruz, and Brookdale North for baseball legend Larry Doby.

Other New Jersey Hall of Fame members scheduled to have Parkway service areas renamed in their honor in the coming months include actor James Gandolfini (Montvale), journalist Connie Chung (Brookdale South), singer Whitney Houston (Vaux Hall), and singer Frank Sinatra ( Atlantic).

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Larry Higgs may be reached at lhiggs@njadvancemedia.com.

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