Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
This tween book by Judy Blume is the first book of five in "The Fudge Books" series and is published by Puffin Books, a division of the Penguin Young Readers Group.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is written for kids ages 7 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Nine-year-old Peter Hatcher lives with his parents and 2-year-old brother, Farley (nicknamed Fudge), in a New York City apartment. This series of vignettes in the life of Peter and his family is told from Peter's perspective as the big brother. Fudge is always getting into mischief — often annoying his older brother. Throughout the book, Peter expresses a range of emotions when responding to and interacting with his brother. Peter's parents often ask Peter to help them with Fudge.
In the opening chapter, Peter brings home a turtle he won at a friend's birthday party. Peter names the turtle Dribble, promises his mother he will take care of it and warns his little brother not to touch it. Fudge appears to listen, but then brings the turtle, without Peter's permission, to show a client of Peter's dad when the client stays overnight with the Hatcher family. Fudge also causes trouble by covering the guest's suitcase with stickers.
In the community, Fudge is just as rambunctious. When Fudge refuses to open his mouth for the dentist, the dentist asks Peter to show Fudge how. At the shoe store, Fudge throws a temper tantrum, and Peter's mom enlists Peter's help to trick him into trying on shoes. At the restaurant for lunch, Fudge shows bad manners. In the movie theatre with Peter and his dad, Fudge throws popcorn and leaves his seat. At his dad's office, Fudge is initially uncooperative for his dad's client's commercial. Once again, Peter's help is enlisted and Fudge cooperates.
When Fudge won't eat his dinner, the family tries various antics to get him to eat, including asking Peter to do handstands. At Fudge's birthday party, he and his friends are rambunctious — making a mess of the cake, arguing over presents and jumping on furniture. Peter helps his mom entertain the kids at the party. When Peter is assigned a school project with two classmates, the group meets at Peter's house and stores some of their supplies there. Fudge gets into Peter's room and draws on the project posterboard. Then Fudge eats Peter's pet turtle and is taken to the hospital.
Peter realizes that in spite of his brother's antics, Fudge really does look up to him. When Fudge is in the hospital, Peter comes to the conclusion that he likes having Fudge around, even though sometimes he gets angry, yells at his brother and dislikes him. He also learns that although sometimes he feels neglected, unloved and overshadowed by his little brother, his parents do love him.
At the end of the story, Fudge is fine, but the turtle dies. Peter's parents show Peter they do take notice of him by giving him another pet. This time it's a dog so Fudge can't swallow it.
Other Belief Systems
The introductory narrative for the chapter that takes place in a park includes two stories of Peter's dad and then a classmate getting mugged in the city. Peter indicates what personal property the muggers took but doesn't describe the mugging itself or give physical descriptions of any injuries.
Peter hits Fudge when Fudge takes the turtle out of its bowl without permission. At the park, Peter and his friend Jimmy grab their classmate Sheila by the arm after they ask her to stop yelling about them having cooties, but she won't. When Fudge falls off the playground equipment, his face is bloody, and his knees and elbows are scratched.
Fudge says no, yells his demands, kicks, screams and hits. In his temper tantrum at the shoe store, he kicks the shoe salesman in the face. Before his birthday party, he gives his mom and grandma bruises when they are trying to get him dressed for the party. At Fudge's birthday party, one of the guests bites Peter and Fudge's grandma.
All kisses are innocent. Fudge gives kisses to his mom to get out of things when he is in trouble; one time Fudge tries that technique with Peter. Peter's dad's secretary gives Peter a kiss on the cheek after he helps get his brother to cooperate in the commercial.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Fudge acts like he's heard Peter but touches the turtle anyway.
- Describe a time when someone did something you asked them not to do.
How was the situation resolved?
Who does the Hatcher family show hospitality to?
- What types of things does our family do to prepare for guests?
- Has there ever been a time when you were hospitable to guests when you didn't want to be?
Would you do it again? Explain.
Peter says thank you for gifts — a pictorial dictionary that he already had and a lollipop he didn't like from the dentist.
- Describe a time when you received a gift you didn't like.
- Describe a time when you thanked someone even though you didn't want to.
- Was that hard to do?
How did it make you feel?
Peter's dad loses the account after his client and his client's wife stay with them.
- How do you think that made Peter's dad feel?
- Have you ever lost privileges or opportunity because of someone else's behavior?
What happened to the relationship with that person?
What are some creative ways that Peter's mom gets Fudge to do things?
- How does she involve Peter in helping get Fudge to do things?
- How are the relationships between your siblings similar?
- How are they different?
Spanking: Mom spanks Fudge after Fudge draws all over the posterboard for Peter's school project. Peter is surprised because it hadn't happened before, and he didn't think his parents believed in spanking.
Drugs and Smoking: Peter doesn't use drugs or smoke, but indicates there are drug sellers in a city park. Peter thinks that using drugs and smoking is stupid.
Sibling Interaction: Peter gets frustrated with his brother, yells at him, tells him to shut up, hits him when he takes the turtle out of its bowl without permission, has thoughts of hating him, not caring about him, wishing he weren't alive and just simply not always liking him. He gets jealous of his brother being in the commercial because he would have liked to. And he's mad at him when he gets all the attention for eating the turtle. However, when the hospital stay is a few days, the house is quiet, and Peter misses his brother.
Name Calling: Peter calls Sheila stupid when she is upset at the park after Fudge jumps off the playground equipment. Peter also tells his brother and Sheila to shut up.
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Readability Age Range
7 and up
Puffin Books, a division of the Penguin Young Readers Group
The Great Stone Face Award, 1981-1982