"Eat it or wear it!…"or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

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.

About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
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18 Responses to "Eat it or wear it!…"or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

  1. Katie Fries says:

    Out of all the Judy Blume books, the Peter and Fudge books are my favorite. Specifically Superfudge, but I should revisit this one as a read aloud for my boys. What I really love about her writing is that writes accessibly without talking down to her young readers. Also, these books are hilarious. I still find them hilarious, even at 30 years of age.Did you read an older printing or a new version? I bought a more recent printing of Superfudge for my kids and they've changed some of the references to make them more current for today's kids.

  2. nikki says:

    Katie-the printing I have is from 1991. So it's newish-oldish. What kinds of things did they change? I tell ya, I kinda hate that the new versions of Are You There God changed the belted maxi pads to the sticky kind. Because all girls should be as confused about that as I was! LOL.

  3. Sadako says:

    I remember thinking 4th grade was sooo old when I read this book. I think I was also a second grader.And yes, Peter's parents sucked. BTW, I had no idea how Fudge could swallow a turtle…till I got one when I was in college. I got one the same way as Peter–as a gift from a friend. Heh. And it was tiny. There are kinds you can get over in Chinatown, and they are about the size of silver dollars. A little bigger, but I mean they fit in the palm of your hand and you could swallow them very easily.

  4. Katie Fries says:

    The Superfudge printing we have is from 2003. In the part where Peter is making his Christmas list he asks for a laptop (don't remember what he asked for originally) and an mp3 player (records in the original printing). And there's another part where Fudge is talking about watching Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network.

    • jannghi says:

      He asked for a stereo, a pocket calculator, a remote-controlled model airplane and albums (he gets a gift certificate for the albums). Fudge originally watched “Sesame Street,” “Electric Company,” and “The Muppet Show.” I hate these so-called updates!
      They don’t completely “update” the story, however. For example, they leave in the part where Fudge sticks trading stamps on Tootsie, hoping to trade her in for two-wheeled bike. Trading stamps don’t exist anymore! And they still have Fudge getting homemade cookies (worm cookies) from the lady down the street (who buys worms from Peter and Alex) when they go trick-or-treating at her house. Kids today are not supposed to accept anything unwrapped at Halloween (Fudge also mentions getting four apples). And they still have the kids going to see “Superman” at the cinema.

  5. I'm so jealous of you being at the National Book festival. Is this the book where Peter goes in a chamber pot? That made quite an impression on me! Also, Peter's parents always annoyed me, because I am not a big fan of parents expecting their kids to do their parenting or them.

  6. Matamgirl says:

    I am totally going to be at the National Book festival because I really want to meet Judy Blume. There are others I am excited about but it is especially her. I always sympathized with Peter because my brother was very Fudge-like. I am perplexed by the swallowing of the turtle now that I think about it because really how does that work? I would find it challenging to swallow a turtle and I am a lot bigger than Fudge.

  7. Sadako says:

    Wow they updated Superfudge? I think he asked for a clock radio and something else in the original.As for those of you who don't get the turtle swallowing, don't think big turtle. Think more like this: http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/large_14turtle.JPG I had one in college. It would have been super easy for anyone to swallow.

  8. In the tv show they totally made the parents way more aware of what was going on. I remember how oblivious these parents seemed compared to most of Judy's parents.Sheila was awesome. My grandma got me a book club copy of Otherwise Known As Shelia The Great and I was just so impressed. Hehehe he had to crap out a turtle LOL

  9. nikki says:

    It's just that a three year old's esophagus is so very small, Sadako! Like smaller than the diameter of a hot dog. I still cut my kid's hot dogs length-wise first BEFORE cutting them into bite size pieces. I just can't imagine a turtle that small!

  10. bibberly says:

    I have to laugh at the part about the irresponsibility of giving someone else's child a pet without asking first, since that's exactly how I got a pet kitten when I was four. I went to a birthday party, and the birthday girl's mom gave us each a kitten to take home without asking our parents first. My parents were angry, but by then I was already attached to it, and my dad had a weak spot for cats anyway. Still, I can't imagine doing that as an adult to someone else's child!

  11. Sadako says:

    True, they are small.This is off topic–Nikki and anyone else, are you having any troubles with editing posts? Every time I open a certain post, all my paragraph breaks disappear. It's disconcerting. Just me?

  12. nikki says:

    I go through that every now and then. It happens sometimes, then sometimes it doesn't. It is frustrating!

  13. Julie says:

    (take note Ann M. Martin, most 2 1/2 year olds can’t play on softball teams or sing the entire score of Annie!)

    I love your whole post but had to laugh especially hard here because it is so true. Then again, 13 years probably wouldn’t successfully coach 2.5 year olds or a run a summer day camp!

  14. Pingback: “How could you? Isn’t one enough?” Or, Superfudge | Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki

  15. Krystal says:

    I remember my Aunt bought me this book. I loved it and drew at the end of the chapters. XD

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