Hello first chapter book I ever read. Yes, I’m talking to you Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I read you for the first time when I was in second grade. I asked my mom if it was OK to read you because I wasn’t in fourth grade yet, and I thought you had to be to read a book about a fourth grader. She laughed a LOT at me for asking that. But still told me I was fine to read it. Yes, I was a stupid kid.
Seriously, I was. But not so stupid that I didn’t realize the awesomeness of the Fudge books when I read them! Still pretty awesome books for kids and I think they’re pretty timeless. (ToaFGN was originally published in 1972, before I was even born!)
Told from the POV of nine year old Peter Hatchter, ToaFGN is a sweet story about sibling rivalry. Peter’s one main problem in life is his two and a half year old brother, Farley Drexel Hatchter, otherwise known as Fudge. Fudge is a walking Ritalin billboard, though back in 1972, kids weren’t on Ritalin yet. So it’s up to Peter and Fudge’s exhausted mother and Peter himself to keep Fudge in check. Unsuccessfully, I might add.
Fudge gets in to all kinds of trouble; ruining Mr. Hatcher’s clients’ luggage, jumping off a jungle gym in central park pretending to be a bird and knocking his two front teeth out, throwing tantrums over eating, shoe shopping and dentist trips, ruining Peter’s class project, and getting lost in a movie theater. The book culminates with Fudge’s worst act yet. Swallowing Peter’s pet turtle. All of these things drive Peter up the wall as he is constantly shoved aside as people give Fudge all the attention. Peter vacillates between exasperation at his parents’ inability to control Fudge and outright anger over what Fudge does.
- Poor Peter. It sounds like he was probably an easy toddler, and his parents have really been thrown for a loop with Fudge.
- Not that the parents are that great. Peter’s mom seems to be at a loss when it comes to keeping an eye on her son, and knowing what Fudge is and is not capable of doing. As the mother of a boy who is closer to Fudge than Peter in personality, I know for a fact that you have to keep a closer eye on some kids than others. My kid can’t even be left in his room alone for longer than a minute unless he’s asleep. I’m not being overprotective, I just know his climbing ability. If your kid is ready for independent play all day at this age, consider yourself lucky.
- Peter is pissed (rightly so) when Fudge ruins a school project. He tells his mom that he wants a lock for his bedroom door. Mom is all “We’re family. We don’t lock each other out.” Well, kumbaya Mrs. Hatcher. In our house we fucking call it child-proofing.
- Peter’s parents totally use him to get Fudge to act right. When Fudge throws a tantrum shoe-shopping because he wants the same type of shoe as Peter, Mom makes Peter lie and say he’s getting shoes that match Fudge’s. When Fudge is picked for a TV commercial at Dad’s ad agency, he refuses to ride the little bike. So they use Peter to pretend he’s having a jolly time riding the bike, which causes Fudge to want to ride it.
- What does Peter get for all his help? Big fat nothing…..
- Until the end. Fudge swallows Peter’s pet turtle, Dribble. He spends two nights in the hospital waiting to shit it out. For the loss of his turtle, Peter gets a dog, who he names Turtle.
- Another bad parent? Jimmy Fargo’s mom. She gave Dribble to Peter as a birthday party prize. Wouldn’t you be pissed if someone gave your kid a pet without asking you first?
- And really, how small was Dribble that Fudge could swallow him whole without choking?
- When mom is away for a weekend, Dad decides to take Peter and Fudge to a movie. Because everyone knows that a movie theater is the best place to take a three year old.
- I gotta say, Judy Blume sure wrote a believable almost-three year old. At least in comparison to my own kid. (take note Ann M. Martin, most 2 1/2 year olds can’t play on softball teams or sing the entire score of Annie!)
- There are really adorable illustrations in this book. If I had a working scanner, you’d be able to see them. But I don’t, so you can’t. Sorry.
- I think this book is what started my kick of loving books that take place in NYC. I grew up in a rural area, and to me it was freaking awesome that Peter got to live in an apartment next to Central Park. He lived on the twelfth floor and oh my god, that was like a million miles in the sky to my seven year old brain. He talked about his friend getting mugged, and he was soooo blase about it! I might as well have been reading about another country!
- FYI-Judy Blume is going to be at National Book Festival in DC on Saturday (9/26). If anyone else is gonna be there, come say hi. I’ll be in the Judy Blume signing line early in the morning. I also plan on being in line for John Irving and Mo Willems. And maybe some others…but definitely those three at least. National Book Festival.