For more than 50 years, Judy Blume’s books have guided children trying to make sense of growing up. Although Blume has now stopped writing — running a bookstore in Key West instead — her books continue to sell. Amy Weiss-Meyer asks why we still need Judy Blume, in a warm profile of an author who shaped her own adolescence.

Blume believes, by contrast, that grown-ups who underestimate children’s intelligence and ability to comprehend do so at their own risk—that “childhood innocence” is little more than a pleasing story adults tell themselves, and that loss of innocence doesn’t have to be tragic. In the real world, kids and teenagers throw up and jerk off and fall in love; they have fantasies and fights, and they don’t always buy what their parents have taught them about God.