This is kind of a cool post for me. My eight year old is a really enthusiastic reader and a total bookworm. But this past summer, I realized he hasn’t been reading any chapter books. He’s mostly stuck to comic books, and books with a lot of pictures (i.e. Big Nate or the Wimpy Kid series), which is fine. Except that I think he was intimidated by chapter books with little to no pictures in them. I didn’t want to force anything on him, so I decided to read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing out loud to him. And it worked. He was so anxious to know what happened, that even though I was reading them out loud to him (and my four year old, who surprisingly followed along and enjoyed it as much as his big brother), he’d take the books to bed with him and read ahead every night.
So this review isn’t just me having re-read the book to myself, I got to experience all four Fudge books (yes, two more have been published since I reached adulthood) through the eyes of my kids.
Peter’s life is going along great, even though his brother Fudge is still a pain in the ass. The Hatcher parents decide to throw a wrench into Peter’s life when they announce that they’re having another baby. When the baby is born, she is almost immediately nicknamed Tootsie, and Peter’s the only one who realizes how ridiculous it is. Fudge goes through a bout of sibling rivalry, but Peter adjusts easily to another baby, and then the parents have yet another big announcement. They’re moving to Princeton, NJ for a year. Mr. Hatchter is taking a year off from his job to write a book about advertising and they want to use that time to see how they like living outside the city.
Peter wants to run away, but has no where to go. So, it’s off to Princeton for the Hatchers. Even though Fudge is only four, he’s very smart for his age, so he starts Kindergarten the same year Peter starts sixth grade, making them both in the elementary school. Having Fudge in school with him is…interesting. Peter gets pulled out of class when Fudge can’t get along with his teacher, and when Fudge gets a pet myna bird, Peter gets to go to Fudge’s class when the bird (Uncle Feather) is there for show and tell.
Peter makes a new friend, Alex, and they dig for worms for a neighbor. No one knows why this woman is so interested in worms, but Alex thinks she eats them. Fudge, being Fudge, comes right out and asks if her cookies have worms in them. This woman’s daughter runs an art gallery in town and is a big fan of Frank Fargo, the father of Peter’s best friend in NYC, Jimmy Fargo.
Fudge continues to cause all sorts of adorable trouble. Falling off his bicycle a million times, pretending to believe in Santa, finding out how babies are made and telling everyone, calling his teacher Rat Face, meeting his favorite author and accidentally insulting his principal in public, running away because he’s not allowed to go on a picnic with Peter and Alex. You know, typical Fudge stuff.
Peter fits in fine and likes Princeton. He has friends and a mild crush on a girl in his class. But still, when their year is up, the family all unanimously decide they’d like to return to the city. The book ends with Tootsie even agreeing. Her first word, ‘yuck,’ becomes ‘Nu Yuck.’
- Despite the fact that Fudge is who makes these books so memorable, I have a real soft spot for Peter. He’s very realistic, and is a worrier in the same way I was when I was eleven. He worries that the new baby will turn out like Fudge. He worries when he gets called to the Principal’s office. He worries that Fudge will be smarter than him when Fudge tests into Kindergarten early. He worries that his mom is giving up on her dream of being an art historian by putting off college and going back to work as a dental hygienist. When Fudge runs away, Peter’s mind immediately decides he’s been run over by a car.
- Even though Jimmy Fargo isn’t in the book much, I adore that Judy Blume has given him a story line – he’s acting out because his mom moved out and his parent’s divorced.
- Hey here’s an idea. Fudge is a brat because his parents never try to make him not be a brat. He takes Tootsie out of her crib and hides her in the closet. He calls his Kindergarten teacher ‘Rat Face,’ and Peter’s the only one who bothers to tell him that’s a shitty thing to do. He whines and cries that he wants Peter and Alex to take him to school, and Mrs. Hatcher gives in to it. When Peter and his friends go to see Superman, Mrs. Hatcher forces him to take Fudge and his friend Daniel along. And of course Fudge sneaks behind Peter and dumps his ice on him. And no one does anything about it. The only time he’s ever disciplined is when he covers Tootsie with trading stamps. And maybe I’m crazy, but I’d be way more pissed at my four year old taking my one month old out of her crib and hiding her in a closet than in covering her with trading stamps.
- Hands down, Uncle Feather is my kids’ favorite part of this book. My four year old keeps walking around saying “Bonjour, stupid!”
- All in all, this is a book that stands the test of time ridiculously well.