129 of 141 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Paperback)
Judy Blume has often shocked the delicate sensibilities of stuffy parents worldwide with her straightforward tell-it-like-it-is young adult books containing sexual situations. When I was a kid though, Judy Blume meant only one thing. "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing". One of my favorite books, written incredibly well, it captured perfectly what it means to be a kid with a little sibling. This book was a revelation. Nowhere else had I encountered an early reader story that wasn't afraid to say that little sibs can be annoying brats. There are roughly five bazillion books out there written specifically to coax older children into befriending their younger siblings. Far fewer are the books that recognize the difficulties these elder kids have to deal with when they're forced to abandon their personal privacy and sanity for the sake of a little brother or sister. The one book that really spoke to me about this (and was really funny as well) was Judy Blume's 1972 creation. And it reads as perfectly today as it did some thirty odd years ago.
There was Peter. And then there was Fudge. Peter Hatcher is nine years old and has the awful job of dealing with almost-three-year-old Fudgie at all times. Fudge is what a polite person might call a lively child. To Peter, however, Fudge is a holy terror. If he's not sticking green food stamps to full suitcases or refusing to eat until Peter stands on his head, he's leaping from large rocks (to fly) and throwing tantrums in shoe stores. Peter is understandably jealous of the amount of attention Fudge attracts but at least he has his pet turtle Dribble to comfort him. Each chapter in this book is a small story about the daily interactions and adventures of the Hatcher boys. The final tale (the most important day of Peter's life, according to him) is probably one of the most memorable episodes in children's literature to date.
What Blume does right with this book is put everything entirely within the first person perspective of Peter himself. His tone of voice is pitch perfect. You empathize with him completely. When Fudge goes into his older brother's room and destroys his poster for school, you're just as inclined to see him punished as Peter is. And when Peter must deal with an awful loss at the book's end, you know just how he feels. Somehow, Blume has taken that prickly mind of the fourth grade boy, and made it completely understandable to the rest of the world. This is no small feat.
There are some small dated elements to the book. Mrs. Hatcher is, suffice to say, your stereotypical frantic mama. You begin to wish that she would grow a backbone once in a while instead of sobbing "my baby" whenever Fudge misbehaves in a dangerous way. As for Fudge, he's great in that he's awful. The worst possible three-year-old to be trapped in a family with. If there's a way to screw something up, he'll manage it. The age difference between a nine-year-old and a three-year-old is immense. Blume bridges that gap adeptly.
I state here and now, as loudly as my little lungs can carry sound (or my little fingers can type a review) that this is one of the best children's books in American literature. It has everything you could possibly want. Humor, adventure, a hero with many troubles, and a happy ending. For kids that have a Fudge of their own, Peter's problems will speak to them instantly. For kids that ARE Fudge, the book will strike them as an amusing romp through a world that is both familiar and unfamiliar. A must read for any kid you know.
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Initial post: Jun 4, 2014 12:34:35 PM PDT
Amazon Customer says:
Awesome review. I've not thought about this book since I read it in 4th grade myself in the late 70's. I don't remember it much as it was eons ago LOL
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