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Craig's Book Club
Book Reviews

Spotlight on: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume Judy Blume, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

My favorite book growing up was Judy Blume's classic short novel of grammar-school and sibling angst, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. It perfectly captures the voice of a nine-year-old through its title character, Peter Warren Hatcher. Peter, much to his chagrin, tells us the story of his younger brother, Farley Drexel, otherwise known as “Fudge.” (Some readers may be familiar with the characters via the short-lived Fudge television series, which based some of its episodes on this book and its sequels.)

Fudge is a wild toddler who is always getting into trouble: either refusing to eat, knocking out his own front teeth, or doing something astonishing to Peter’s pet turtle, Dribble. Fudge’s friends are no better behaved, either, and Mrs. Hatcher has her hands full during Fudge’s third birthday party.

The remarkable thing about Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is how Blume keeps coming up with even more ways for Fudge to misbehave while still making him seem completely innocent of any motives. He just does what he wants, like a little walking id, with no thought to consequences -- undoubtedly the key to the book’s popularity. (Blume has said that she based Fudge on her son Larry, but was quick to assure that Larry never did anything like what Fudge did to Peter’s turtle.)

The author has divided the book into chapters that can stand alone as separate, linked stories, making Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing easy to read in installments. My only complaint is that Blume portrays the father as someone who is completely oblivious regarding how to care for his two sons on his own. The mother goes away for a weekend, leaving him in charge, and he shows absolute ignorance of how the house is run. Perhaps this was more common when Blume first wrote the book back in the 1970s, but it is no longer the accepted norm. That said, this choice doesn’t really hurt the book at all since the father is otherwise written sympathetically, and has some very funny scenes.

Some of Judy Blume’s works have concerned parents due to their approach concerning more adult-oriented subject matters. This one has no such aspirations. She obviously geared it toward younger readers for them to enjoy purely as entertainment, and not in an attempt to teach life lessons. I was surprised to find that revisiting a favorite from my childhood could hold much the same pleasure as it did then. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing has earned itself a permanent place on my bookshelf.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form in The Gardner News. Copyright 2005.


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