Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
by Judy Blume (1972)
Why are the Fudge books still in print decades after they first charmed elementary school readers in the 1970s?
Judy Blume wrote five Fudge books. Their protagonist is ten-year-old Peter Hatcher, but his nemesis or antagonist or perhaps just his foil is his baby brother Farley – aka Fudge. Peter and Fudge aren’t really enemies. Fudge is just a rival for the attention and love of his parents, something most kids know a lot about. His parents don’t love Fudge more than Peter, but Fudge is a handful and it sure seems like his parents spend more time on Fudge. Fudge seems to run the show and get what he wants, and they don’t seem to be able to protect Peter from Fudge’s predations.
Blume’s trick is to present all this from Peter’s perspective. Life with a younger brother is unfair! And what elementary school reader doesn’t relate to that? They still do – decades later.
Life with Fudge is also funny as Fudge instigates some new hijinks in nearly every chapter. Each Fudge book is a season’s worth of sitcom scenarios packed into 10 chapters. That’s what makes them brisk, memorable page-turners.
There are lessons, too. Peter will never conquer or overcome the attention his brother demands. But he will learn from it, as all children must. One School, One Book families have been asking to share Fudge’s misadventures for some time now. We’re happy to offer Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing with resources for our family literacy programs.
Know, too, that Blume’s influence runs deep. Current 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 and candidly among themselves in the innocent, candid, and true way that kids really talk. And your readers will flock like seagulls to your stories. That’s why the Fudge books are still in print. They’ve wrought a legacy.