Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
First published 1972
My history with this book
I loved Judy Blume as a kid, but I had never read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
My husband loved this book as a kid and recommended it to me.
I feel liked I missed out not reading Takes of a Fourth Grade Nothing as a kid, because I enjoyed it so much as an adult, and I wish that I could have experienced it as a kid. It’s a fantastic and very funny book. It’s quite similar to another one of my favorites, Beezus and Ramona, with a long-suffering older sibling and an adorable but annoying younger sibling.
Peter is 9 and his little brother Fudge is almost 3. Fudge is widely adored, but he’s also a holy terror, and poor Peter feels insignificant and ignored. Fudge’s adventures are hilarious, but being the nice, stable, normal kid isn’t always easy.
Judy Blume is so good at capturing a kid’s voice. Peter feels so real, and there’s nothing precious or precocious about him. The book doesn’t really have a plot. It’s mostly hilarious episodes of Fudge behaving badly and Peter making funny observations. In one chapter, the mother takes the boys to buy new shoes. She’s horrified that Peter has a hole in his sock, but she’s fairly blase about Fudge having a meltdown. “How could my mother have been so embarrassed over a little hole in my sock and then act like nothing much was happening when her other son was on the floor yelling and screaming and carrying on!” Peter’s mother ends up convincing him to trick Fudge into trying on new shoes, and Peter is torn between thinking it’s funny that Fudge is so easily fooled and feeling bad for him.
Fudge’s third birthday party is probably the funniest part of the book, although it does seem slightly dated. Fudge’s father isn’t there, and the other mothers just drop their kids off. Having given and attended of small children’s birthday parties, I can confirm that drop offs are not a thing nowadays, and dads no longer get to skip their own kids’ parties. Attending the party are a crier, a biter, and a kid who eats everything in sight. The party goes about as well as you’d expect.
Does it hold up?
Not having read this one as a kid, I don’t have a point of comparison, but Judy Blume is pretty timeless. There are some minor dated elements (references to daytime muggings in Central Park, their building has an elevator operator, the dad is clueless about most aspects of child-rearing, Peter mentions “dope pushers,” Fudge gets saddle shoes), but otherwise, it holds up well.
Is there any objectionable content?
Just some mild fat-shaming of a chubby toddler.
Can you read it aloud?
Yes. The audiobook would be great for a car trip with kids.
Would I want my kid to read it?
It’s widely available, in print, ebook, and audiobook format.