Top 100 Children’s Novels #35: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Nobody can get the voice of kids quite like Judy Blume. Fudge and Peter are every kid and just as relevant today as they were in 1972. – Stacy Dillon
The synopsis from the publisher reads, “Living with his little brother, Fudge, makes Peter Hatcher feel like a fourth grade nothing. Whether Fudge is throwing a temper tantrum in a shoe store, smearing smashed potatoes on walls at Hamburger Heaven, or scribbling all over Peter’s homework, he’s never far from trouble. He’s a two-year-old terror who gets away with everything—and Peter’s had enough. When Fudge walks off with Dribble, Peter’s pet turtle, it’s the last straw. Peter has put up with Fudge too long. How can he get his parents to pay attention to him for a change?”
According to American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction, the book came about when, “A house helper who knew that Blume was writing books for children brought her a clipping one day about a boy who swallowed a turtle. ‘Willie Mae,’ to whom the book is dedicated, kept Blume informed of developments, and the story found its way into the enormously popular Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (1972), in which Peter Hatcher’s ‘problem’ is his two-year-old brother, Fudge . . . The original idea was for a picture book called ‘Peter, Fudge and Dribble.’ It was rejected as a picture book by Bradbury, but Ann Durrell, children’s editor of Dutton, suggested the form in which it was finally published.” And aren’t we glad she did?
Peter is a child everyman. The straight man to Fudge. Doomed to forever be overshadowed by his little brother (they don’t call this series the Peter Series, after all).
For a new perspective, I enjoyed this review of the book from the excelsior file. Sort of brings up a point I hadn’t considered before:
“Peter has never mentioned wanting a dog, never really wanted anything but to have his brother not mess up his life, and all we see time and again are a pair of loving parents who don’t freak out (which is good) but can’t seem to reign in the terror of tiny town. And for all Peter has to put up with he’s given a puppy for companionship. After all he’s endured throughout the book Peter is essentially told ‘we love you, but we’ve got our hands full with your maniacal brother so here’s a puppy to give your the companionship we can’t give you’.”
Twenty-two classrooms at Robert E. Clow Elementary School created cakes based on books. All I can hope is that this one won. There’s something delightfully twisted about it.
Lest you fear that Ramona has all the fun, Fudge got his own television show too. Right about 1995.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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