Farley Drexel Hatcher, you own my heart. That’s the irrepressible Fudge, for those who are fuzzy on the characters of Judy Blume’s novels for kids, tweens and teens.
“Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” was published in 1972. I have fond memories of Mrs. Bartlett, my third grade teacher, reading it aloud to my class. Fudge and his exasperated older brother Peter were my introduction to the world of Blume, before I was old enough for Margaret, Blubber and Deenie. And I loved them.
Here we are, 30-plus years later, and I broke out a copy of the book that I picked up recently at a used book store. I never know what kind of reaction my kids are going to have to a book (see Potter, Harry), but I was hopeful. It’s not that often that my 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter can agree on a book. He usually wants to read about the physics behind Angry Birds, and she gravitates toward mysteries.
But Fudge, like the pesky Ramona Quimby before him, was a home run with both of them. When Fudge cut his own hair and scribbled all over the poster for Peter’s school project, they laughed. When he smeared mashed potatoes all over the wall at a restaurant, they laughed some more. And when he ate Peter’s turtle, Dribble, well, they pretty much couldn’t take anymore.
The book’s 10 chapters are longish (compared with, say Captain Underpants or Magic Treehouse) at around 12 to 14 pages, but both of my kids were begging me to keep reading each night. That’s not terribly common in our house, particularly in chapter books that don’t have many pictures. The truest sign of their approval, though, is that they quote the book (“Pee-tah”) and are still talking about it, several days after we finished reading it.
There are some uncomfortable anachronisms in the book, including references to one of Fudge’s toddler friends as “fat” and a mention of dope pushers in Central Park, but for the most part, Peter and Fudge have aged well. Fudge’s toddler antics are amusing and Peter’s tween angst about having to put up with a squirrelly little brother who invades his room, pretends he’s a dog and refuses saddle shoes is dead on. Both boys are Blume at her best.
An added bonus: Fudge has given me fodder in discussions with my daughter, who thinks she wants a baby sister. She’s not getting a baby anything, and now I can point out to her that a baby would grow into a toddler, and just look how much trouble Fudge caused for his brother.
I’m not sure she’s buying that, but she is asking to read the sequel, “Superfudge,” where, if memory serves, Peter gets a baby sister. And her arrival makes Fudge even more challenging. Hmmm…
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