Judy Blume published Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing in 1972. The first book in a series of five, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing presents us with the plight of Peter Hatcher, a nine-year-old kid whose two-year-old brother, Fudge, creates havoc wherever he goes. Peter tries hard to put up with his brother’s shenanigans, but – like all of us – he has his limits.
“I guess Fudge could tell I was about ready to kill him because he bent down and kissed me. That’s what he does when my mother’s angry at him. He thinks nobody can resist him when he makes himself so lovable. And a lot of times it works with my mother. But not with me!”
Peter and Fudge aren’t really enemies. Fudge is just a rival for the attention and love of their parents, something most kids know all about. Whether it’s smearing the walls with mashed potatoes or ruining Peter’s school project, Fudge’s misadventures bring a lighthearted look to the book’s overall theme: relationships with siblings can be challenging and the frustration is real when your parents don’t seem to ‘get it.’
“Mom,” I said, shaking my head. “How could you?”
“How could I what, Peter?” Mom asked.
“How could you let him do it?”
“Let who do what, Peter?” Mom asked.
“LET FUDGE EAT DRIBBLE!” I screamed.
Fudge is fine, but Dribble, the turtle, isn’t so lucky. Eventually, Peter’s parents do ‘get it’ and replace the turtle with a puppy, telling Fudge it belongs to Peter and telling Peter that he’s been a “good sport” and is ready for a dog of his own. Through all of Fudge’s crazy antics, readers will identify with Peter’s struggles and feel comfortable discussing family dynamics of their own.
Judy Blume is an award-winning, best-selling author who has given us funny, awkward, and honest characters for decades, characters who are just trying to navigate everyday life experiences. Blume’s influence runs deep. Popular authors like Andrew Clements (Frindle), Jacqueline Davies (The Lemonade War), Jason Reynolds (Ghost), and Dan Gutman (The Homework Machine) have learned from Judy Blume. Put kids in their milieu. Let them talk freely among themselves in the innocent, candid, and true way that kids really talk. And readers will flock like seagulls to your stories. That’s why the Fudge books are still in print. They’ve wrought a legacy.