Stories of My Childhood: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

What is the book about?

This series of books is about Peter Hatcher (originally in fourth grade) and his little brother Fudge. The books typically consist of mini-stories, but it’s in a chapter book format with an overlying theme to tie it together.

In the original book, Fudge is a two year old known for throwing tantrums and just being an embarrassment to Peter. They have many entertaining days, including Fudge spoiling a school project, bribing Fudge with Oreos to be in a commercial, and many more. In book 2, Superfudge, the family moves from NYC to Princeton for a year. In Fudge-a-Mania (maybe my favorite), the family, plus Peter’s friend Jimmy and arch-enemy Sheila, goes to Maine for three weeks. In the final installment, Double Fudge, Fudge becomes obsessed with money. While on a trip to DC to see how money is made, they run into long-lost family members and life is turned upside down. I’m unusual in that I think that the last two books are my favorites.

How did I discover it?

My mom purchased the book for me. I was drawn in by what was a colorful cover (and the Comic Sans summary on the back!) but flipping through the text, it seemed boring and slow. I eventually got over it and very much enjoyed the book.

What do I love about the books?

They’re fun! These books are what I call “escapist books.” There’s not necessarily one plot problem to be solved except for Fudge; mainly it’s about stepping into another character’s world for a while and looking at their life. These books can be hit-or-miss for me, but the Fudge series hits a home run. The family dynamics are perfect and are a realistic as you can get. They’re also funny without being too out there. Everything in these books could happen in real life. Book 3 reminded me of my own family vacations, and I wasn’t even sure how since it took place in a different location.

Secondly, they age incredibly well. These are the best-aging books I’ve ever seen, though I think Harry Potter will have done well too. Save for the very occasional reference to a record player or a Harry Potter book on tape, these could take place in any generation. The first one was written in the 70s, but you’d never know it to read it today. Normally if the first book in a series took place in the 70s and then the final one wasn’t written until the 2000s, you’d know right away. With this series, you’d never know.

I love the characters, too, well-drawn without over-the-top effort put into them. I especially love seeing the three families get together in Fudge-A-Mania. Grandma and Buzzy Senior for life–incidentally two of my favorite characters. 

Digging deeper into the fandom

When I started doing my old college blog, I had the idea to do a post on Office Scranton vs. real life Scranton, meaning that I would note the locations used in the show and compare them. I found out so many interesting things. For example, Lake Scranton could never actually be used as a place for team building, nor would Michael be able to drive a car into it.

I did the same thing with Fudge-a-Mania. Many places mentioned are real, right down to the library (even the exterior is the same as described in the book!) to the harbor. I even spotted a couple places where their vacation house might be. Meanwhile, I also explored New York City in Google Maps to track down places mentioned in the other books. There is a scene in Double Fudge where Peter is telling Cousin Howie how to get to the vet’s office. After tracking down the family’s apartment (I actually believe that they would be very close by to the Hobbs family in Elf), I followed Peter’s directions exactly and…ended up at a vet’s office. Hey-o! Judy Blume’s sense of detail and direction is evident in her books and I think that’s awesome. Now not every place is real (I still can’t find a Tico-Taco or a Harry’s shoe store, unless they went out of business or something), but you would be amazed at how many locations you can track down. It really introduces you to the setting, and also shows dedication by the author.

I never did a post on this, but I would like to, so keep an eye out. If your current book takes place in a real location, I encourage you to get out Google Maps and see what you can discover! And while rereading it, your powers of visualization will be awesome.

Favorite memory involving the books

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing taught me the perils of looking ahead. It’s very tempting for many of us to peek ahead and see what happens. I really try not to do this.

Anyway, I did this for the first book and discovered the ultimate bad thing that Fudge does with Peter’s turtle. I was bummed, as it would be more shocking if I found it out when I was supposed to. My mom had asked me if I had finished yet, and when I said no, she said, “Wait until you see what Fudge does at the end!” I was disappointed that I already knew. After that, I never peeked ahead in a book again…that’s a lie.

I also recall times when I liked to read while I ate my lunch at home. These books were some of my favorite “lunch reads.”

How did the books inspire me?

I did try to write a few “escapist” stories starring a group of three friends, but that project has been tossed aside for now. 

My thoughts on the books now

I still love them and think of them as comfort books. I’m not ashamed to admit that when I was in college, sometime I’d use them as my bedtime reading. And maybe even still now! I enjoy being in a different world for a while and I love each character, not just Fudge. 

Did you read this series as a kid? What did you think?

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