Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

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Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a story about Peter and his little brother Fudge.  The book is reviewed by Melissa G. at Sweet on Books.

What You Need to Know:
• Judy Blume’s classic story of family life and growing up, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was written more than 30 years ago and is still relevant today. 
• The reader will get some insight into apartment life and what it was like to grow up in New York City. 
• Most of the stories are a family affair, involving Peter, his challenging little brother, Fudge and their parents and most will have you laughing. 
• Mild concerns were noted due to the mention of muggings and drug pushers (remember it was the 1970’s) although these are mentioned briefly. Peter does say that taking dope is dumb so there is a good message here as long as your reader understands what all that means. 
• It is told in the first person, allowing the reader to get to know Peter and how he feels. 
• A perfect selection for anyone entering fourth grade, this book is often used by teachers as part of the curriculum. 
• If falls on the higher end of the Reader Senior level as there are no illustrations, there is less white space on the page and it addresses some more sophisticated topics.

Sweet Book Summary:
Peter Warren Hatcher, or Pee-tah as his brother likes to call him, is a fourth grader with a problem. It isn’t his mother or his father, or even school. As the reader learns, it is his brother, Farley Drexel, also known as Fudge who is always causing trouble. When Peter wins a turtle at his friend’s birthday party, he is responsible and takes good care of his new pet, Dribble, telling two and a half year old Fudge, with a bit of foreshadowing, not to touch him. As we learn from Peter, Fudge is always in his way and messing things up for him. Peter likes Fudge best when he is sleeping! 

When a client from Peter’s dad’s advertising firm comes to stay in their apartment, Peter is polite, but Fudge’s behavior has the guests running for the door and his dad loses the account. Fudge is a challenging kid and Peter is often called upon to help out with him. At the dentist, he needs to demonstrate opening his mouth, at the shoe store he has to pretend to buy shoes like Fudge wears, at Fudge’s birthday party he has to entertain the “biter”, the “eater” and the “crier”, and when Fudge refuses to eat, Peter must stand on his head to convince him otherwise. It is always Peter to the rescue. 

The reader is also introduced to two of Peter’s friends, Jimmy (his partner in an ongoing game of secret agent) and Sheila (the “know-it-all” that lives in his building) who go to school with him. When the three of them are left in charge of Fudge he attempts to fly, crashes and ends up swallowing his two front teeth. He’ll swallow a whole lot more before the book is over! The three friends get together again when they are assigned to a group project on Transportation. They struggle to figure out the best way to work together as a team and how to put the group’s success ahead of any of their individual achievements. 

The relationships are extremely realistic, from Peter’s feelings to his mother’s responses. The reader will sympathize with Peter when Fudge gets all the attention because he is cute and little, making Peter feel like “nothing.” On page 42, Peter says, “Nobody can stop me from thinking. My mind is my own.” and the reader will feel inspired as Peter takes steps toward adulthood and independence. Finally, having a male main character in a book that is not about sports or in graphic novel form is always a treat.

Author: Judy Blume Illustrator: N/A Published: 1972, 128 pages 
Themes: Animals, Books for Boys, Family Life, Friendship, School, Teamwork, and Urban

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