Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ7.B6265 Tal|
|Followed by||Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great|
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a children's novel written by Judy Blume in 1972. It is the first of the "Fudge books" and was followed by Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania, and most recently by Double Fudge. Although Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great features many of the same characters as the series, it does not fit exactly in the continuity of it because it only focuses on Peter's classmate (who later becomes his cousin), Sheila Tubman.
Originally, the book featured illustrations by Roy Doty, but all post 2002 reprints of the book have omitted the pictures.
The story focuses on a nine-year-old boy named Peter Warren Hatcher and his relationship with his two-year-old brother Farley Drexel "Fudge" Hatcher. Farley hates the sound of his legal name, and prefers Fudge for any and all occasions.
The book chronicles 9-year-old Peter Hatcher's infuriation with the horrendous behavior demonstrated by his annoying 2-year-old brother Fudge, which frequently goes unpunished. Peter becomes frustrated with Fudge because he often disturbs Dribble, Peter's pet turtle which Peter won at his friend's birthday party. Furthermore, his little brother throws nonstop temper tantrums, conducts an unexplained abstinence from eating, and emulates his brother's behavior, throwing tantrums if it is prohibited. Nevertheless, their parents dote on Fudge, to refuge anger.
For months, Fudge's antics continue; breaking his front teeth after catapulting himself from the jungle gym at the local playground when he decides to fly (Chapter 4), vandalizing Peter's group assignment (Chapter 7), and taking off on his family at a movie theater (Chapter 9). However, one day, to Peter's absolute misery, he returns home to discover Dribble's disappearance from his bowl, Fudge claiming to have swallowed him. These proclamations prove to be correct, and they rushed to the hospital, where Dribble is safely extracted, to Mrs. Hatcher's relief. However, Dribble has died in Fudge's stomach (likely burned by stomach acids). Peter is incredibly devastated over the loss of his beloved pet, albeit his parents sympathetically compensate by adopting a dog, which Peter appropriately names "Turtle" in memory of Dribble.
Peter — The protagonist of the story, and a smart, assertive, but seemingly naive 9-year-old boy. Most of the novel focuses upon his relationship with Fudge and his family, and the fact that Fudge is the perceived source of all of his troubles. His parents usually seem to let Fudge get away with anything and everything, something that he would later realize was not always true. But it is true that Peter's needs and wants are often ignored and overshadowed in favor of his little brother's.
Peter believes that his parents show Fudge preferential treatment, especially his mother; he also is frequently frustrated when Fudge gets into his things and tries to become involved in his activities. However, Peter does love his little brother very much and shows concern when he is hospitalized (after swallowing Peter's turtle whole) and the doctors speculate that they may need to operate on him. But after Fudge is hospitalized, Peter is left with his grandma and awakens one night to find out that Dribble came out Fudge's other end--dead. Then Fudge comes home the next day, and is given lots of presents and love while a depressed Peter gets totally ignored. That is, until the evening, when Warren comes home with a dog for Peter for being "a good sport" and to compensate for the loss.
Fudge — Peter's younger brother, whom he often resents. At the beginning of the book, Fudge (a nickname for his much-despised legal name, Farley Drexel) is two years old, and turns three in Chapter 5. Fudge is a very loud, demanding, and mischievous toddler who is prone to violent temper tantrums. He has a very active imagination, and others - including Sheila Tubman and the wife of one of his father's clients - adore him.
Anne Hatcher — The mother of Peter and Fudge, and wife of Warren. A caring mother, she shows love and devotion to her family, and is very protective of Fudge. Her sometimes over-protective ways with Fudge sometime cause problems for Peter; for example, when Fudge jumps off a jungle gym at the playground (believing he is a bird that will land safely), she tells Peter off, holding him solely responsible. However, she is quick to apologize for her snappy judgments.
Warren Hatcher — The father of Peter and Fudge, and husband of Anne. He works at an unnamed advertising agency, whose major clients in Tales are with Juicy-O (a fruit beverage that the Hatchers find rather noxious-tasting) and Toddle Bike (a manufacturer of plastic toy tricycles a la the Big Wheel and Green Machine); Fudge is hired for a commercial for the latter product. Although most of Warren's clients are happy with his work and company, he also had his share of failures, such as losing the Juicy-O account. A loving father who wants what is best for his family, he is more conservative in rearing his sons than Anne, particularly with Fudge. For example at one point in the novel, when Fudge was going through a stage where he refused to eat at the table, he dumped a bowl of Corn Flakes over his head. Fudge commences eating, once again, after the cereal incident.
Jimmy Fargo — Peter's best friend. He and Peter hang around together, but share an equal dislike for classmate Sheila Tubman. Jimmy, at times, seems to resent Fudge and is glad that he is an only child, though is more tolerable of Fudge than Peter is. The novel does not state that he is of African-American origin. In the TV series, however, he is portrayed by a black actor.
Sheila Tubman — Classmate of Peter and Jimmy, who lives with her family in the same apartment building as the Hatchers. Peter is annoyed at the very thought of Sheila, considering her to be a bossy know-it-all who still has cooties. At times, Sheila does assert herself by trying to control a school project she, Peter, and Jimmy were assigned to work on together (although their efforts are rewarded with an "A"). Sheila is sometimes allowed to help babysit Fudge. She has an older sister named Libby. It is hinted at, however briefly, that Sheila may have a slight crush on Peter, although because of their bickering it is not evident.