As Judy Bloom’s Blubber begins, the kids in Jill Brenner’s fifth-grade class are delivering reports on mammals. Jill has not yet decided what to be for Halloween this year, so she thinks about her costume as the others speak in front of the group. Linda Fisher, a heavyset girl, gives a report on whales. When Linda says whales are covered with thick fat called blubber, Jill’s friends Wendy and Caroline pass her a note that says, “Blubber is a good name for her!” Jill sets the note aside, but a boy snatches it and passes it around. In the bus on the way home after school, all the kids tease Linda, stealing her jacket and taunting her with songs about blubber. When Jill sees that Linda is about to cry, she gives the jacket back.
From Linda’s report, Jill learned that people called flensers have the job of cutting the blubber off whales. She decides to be a flenser for Halloween. She makes a sword out of cardboard, paints a pair of boots, and decorates a hat with dolphins because she cannot find any pictures of whales. The next day at school, she is sure she will win the prize for most original costume, but that distinction goes to a kid who dresses as a fried egg. Later in the bathroom, Jill takes out her frustrations by teasing Linda. Wendy, the leader of Jill’s group of friends, prompts Jill to help strip off Linda’s clothes and pretend to cut off her blubber. Jill does what Wendy says to do, but she backs down when Linda gets upset. Afterward, Jill does not seem to regret her meanness or worry about getting in trouble. She knows Linda will not complain to the teacher because “everybody knows you don’t cross Wendy.”
That evening, Jill and Tracy trick-or-treat through their wealthy neighborhood. They crack rotten eggs in the mailbox of a grumpy neighbor, Mr. Machinist. Jill says she would never smash pumpkins or steal candy from little kids, as some of her friends do. “But nothing is too mean for Mr. Machinist.... He deserves it.” The girls also attack Linda’s house with toilet paper and Silly String. Later they take Wendy and Caroline back to Mr. Machinist’s house to show off the trick they played on him. Mr. Machinist sprays them with his hose and snaps a picture of their backs as they run away.
At school, the kids act increasingly vicious toward Linda. They chase her, steal her food, and tease her about being fat. When they learn she thinks the kids will stop calling her Blubber if she loses weight, Wendy makes her say, “My name will always be Blubber.” At home that night, Jill tells her mom that she would punch anyone who bullied her at school. When her mom asks what brought that comment on, Jill says that Linda “lets everybody walk all over her.” Her mom suggests imagining what it would be like to be in Linda’s place, but Jill refuses and says that could never happen.
On Wednesday Wendy and Caroline make a list of ways to “have fun” with Blubber. Their ideas include tripping, pinching, pushing, shoving, and holding their noses whenever Blubber walks by. Most of the teachers seem unaware of the kids’ systematic attacks. When somebody trips Blubber, for example, the teacher in the room just tells her to “be more careful.”
Jill is not a particularly good athlete, so she is pleased with herself when she kicks a double during a kickball game in gym class. The ball flies directly at Blubber and knocks her over, and Blubber complains that Jill hurt her on purpose. Jill, who cannot kick well enough to do such a thing, gets angry and acts innocent when Blubber demands to know why she is always picking on her.
After this incident, the kids find yet more ways to be cruel to Blubber. When she goes on a diet, they make up a playground song to taunt her...
(The entire section is 1539 words.)