Photo by Dana Hawley

As Judy Blume is one of the best-selling children’s/young adult authors over the past 50+ years, it’s natural to assume that her various books would have been adapted many times over. However, save for a handful of mostly forgettable entries, both on TV and in theaters, Blume’s stories have remained solely on paper.

Her seminal 1970 YA book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, has finally come to the big screen, and despite taking place in the past, its story is as resonant as ever. Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) is an 11-year-old girl in the early 1970s who, much to her and her grandmother’s (Kathy Bates) chagrin, moves from New York City to New Jersey with her mom, Barbara (Rachel McAdams), and dad, Herb (Benny Safdie), when Herb gets a new job.

Margaret is quickly taken into a friend group led by Nancy Wheeler (Elle Graham), who is obsessed with all things puberty-related, like getting her first period, growing breasts, and what boys everyone likes. Margaret, in order to assimilate, goes along with the fixation, with some reluctance. At the same time, she – the non-religious daughter of a Christian mother and Jewish father – starts exploring different aspects of religion, including her own private dialogue with God.

The reason it’s taken this particular book so long to be adapted is because the now 85-year-old Blume would not previously allow it. But it appears Blume was right in waiting so long, as writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig has made a film that’s almost miraculous in its empathy and storytelling. Taking a cue from Blume, who released her book at a time when its subject matter was far more taboo, Craig tackles the story’s tricky topics with forthright honesty that’s still family-friendly.

There have certainly been many movies and TV shows through the years that have dealt with puberty, but Craig sets this film apart thanks to the upfront nature of how the pre-teen characters talk about their thoughts and the humor with which the film deals with them. As any adult knows, puberty is a natural part of life, and Craig makes sure to treat it as such with no reservations.

There are big laughs that come throughout thanks to the period – no pun intended – details. Every realization that Margaret has about the realities of puberty, from the size of the menstruation pads to the discomfort of bras, is hilarious to witness. The production design also does a great job at re-creating the feel of the era, something older audience members will appreciate.

The religious part of the film plays a big role, and Craig impresses in this aspect, as well. Without putting her thumb on the scale in any way, the filmmaker has Margaret go to multiple different places of worship to see what they have to offer. Religion can often be a lightning rod, but here it’s dealt with in a straightforward manner, allowing Margaret – and the audience – to see the pros and cons for herself.

The adults are typically an afterthought in kid-centric movies like this, but Craig smartly gives them more to do than just be a support system for Margaret. Barbara is shown adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom, and her family backstory grounds the film even more than it already is. Margaret’s teacher Mr. Benedict (Echo Kellum) only has a few scenes, but each of them is impactful. The film's treatment of adult relationships is just as responsible for the success of the film as the kid friendships.

Fortson is darn near perfect as Margaret, infusing her with a wide-eyed wonder, enthusiasm, and sense of purpose. McAdams is also wonderful, turning into an ideal-yet-realistic mother. Safdie initially seems like an odd choice, but he acquits himself well. Bates is a joy to watch, even if having her play a Jewish grandmother feels a little off. And the child actors are uniformly fun and interesting, especially Elle Graham and Isol Young.

Nearly every part of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret works like a charm, and not just as a movie for pre-teens/teenagers. Blume’s story has always been a universal one, and this gem of a film lives up to its legacy in every way.


Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret opens in theaters on April 28.

Rachel McAdams and Abby Ryder Fortson in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Photo by Dana Hawley

Rachel McAdams and Abby Ryder Fortson in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

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San Antonio International Airport clears runway for 1st nonstop flight to Europe, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor's note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From international flights to local delights, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio International Airport clears runway for 1st nonstop flight to Europe. Passengers can now book tickets for flights from San Antonio International Airport (SAT) to Germany's Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

2. Hot San Antonio hotel brings back popular live fire dinner series for fall. Executive chef Michael Collins will keep grilling on the patio at Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails.

3. New honky-tonk surprisingly two-steps into St. Paul's Square. When Steve Mahoney first relaunched Francis Bogside and Anne’s, rumors circulated on how he would use the expansive upstairs space.

4. Nola breaks new ground and a Hill Country eatery heads to City Hall in San Antonio food news. This week's food news saw the expansion of a popular brunch spot, cookbook and website features, and more.

5. Here are the top 7 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. There's much to do this weekend, including beer festivals and a great standup set.

Hugely popular San Antonio restaurant Ladino celebrates first anniversary with Mediterranean party

Luck be Ladino

Although Ladino has only been a Pearl gem for one year, the mediterranean hotspot already feels like a San Antonio staple.

Helmed by executive chef Berty Richter and Emmer Hospitality, Ladino is slated to celebrate its first anniversary this Sunday with a festive party celebrating the restaurant's success as well as its future. Guests will enjoy a welcome beverage (and more cocktails for purchase), plus unlimited grilled meats, pita sandwiches, and other bites. DJ Zain will keep the energy up, while guests play yard games and kids get their faces painted.

Chef Richter tells CultureMap, '"In the world of restaurants and hospitality, we always strive to progress, keep learning, and improving."

When Ladino opened last September, it represented a promising branching out from its Austin-branched hospitality group parent, which had prior (and has since) earned acclaim from national publications for its cultural vibrancy — and deliciousness, of course.

In Ladino's case, the cultural touchstone is the Judeo-Spanish language of the same name that Chef Richter spoke growing up, which also included elements of Castellano, French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, and Hebrew. Richter's Turkish mother inspired many parts of the restaurant's popular Mediterranean menu.

Despite a strong point of view, the restaurant does have something for everyone, and is very accommodating to patrons with dietary restrictions. Signature staples include the sourdough-based pita bread (which comes unlimited with the hummus dip), kibbeh nayeh with Wagyu tartare, shishbarak (lamb and pork dumplings), and saffron chicken. The Wagyu Denver steak is a consistent standout, with a perfect crispy edge surrounding the medium rare middle.

Chef Richter plans to keep the menu generally the same for now, with the ongoing tradition of rotating some dishes out based on seasonal availability.

"We are excited to continue exploring the cuisines and cultures that Ladino represents, while strengthening our relationships with local farmers, growers, producers, and the communities of San Antonio," says Richter.

Now open seven days a week, Ladino offers a happy hour on weekdays from 5-6:30 pm. Deals include six dollars off of the hummus dip and pita, $5 off of Ladino's signature cocktails and wines by the glass, and deals on other plates like babaganoush, a spicy Feta plate, and more. The happy hour specials are only available at the upstairs bar, which is easily accessible catty-corner to the main Ladino entrance at the Pearl.

Tickets ($40, $15 for kids) to the anniversary celebration on October 1, from 4-8 pm, are still available via Eventbrite. Regular reservations and to-go orders may be made at ladinosatx.com.

Botanical Garden's Lightscape mesmerizes with new exhibits and discount tickets


Call it the grown-up version of posing with Santa Claus. Since its dazzling debut in 2021, the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Lightscape has been the essential stop for holiday photoshoots. Planners are already working hard to ensure the annual tradition is more brilliant — and accessible — than ever.

Tickets are now on sale for the showstopping exhibition, running November 17 to January 1. The festivities will include familiar displays and brand-new illuminated works from global designers.

French creative studio Pitaya will return with a new installation, "Spark Ballet." The work features dozens of hanging lanterns glowing with firefly lights as a flickering guide around the lake. Visitors will also be treated to a pair of large-scale spectacles from UK outfit ArtAV, including an array of sparkling stars and a 40-foot-high LED tree.

Some of last year’s favorites will make an encore. The "Heart Arch Walk" allows guests to stroll under a tunnel of love while "Floraison" canopies explorers with brightly lit poppies. As always, the "Winter Cathedral" provides one last selfie spot.

The ever-popular "Bluebonnets" will also mesmerize sightseers, this time with an army of life-sized cowboy nutcrackers. The "Fire Garden" will have a new addition, too — the 25-foot dragon last seen in the blockbuster Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time exhibition.

Peak date tickets cost $28 for adults and $18 for children, with VIP packages and member discounts available. For the first time ever, the garden also offers Value Nights on select dates in November and December. Revelers can score tickets as low as $18 for adults and $10 for kids online.

San Antonio Botanical Garden Lightscape

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Botanical Garden

The Pixel tree makes an ideal selfie stop.