Study Guide

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

by Judy Blume

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Summary

Summary

Judy Blume, popular author of children's and young adult novels, wrote Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing in 1972 as the first in a series of stories about the troublesome character Fudge. Other novels that include the character Fudge are Superfudge (1980), Fudge-a-Mania(1990), and Double Fudge (2002). Blume came up with the idea for this story after reading a newspaper account of a young boy eating a pet turtle.

The novel is divided into ten chapters, but the story is told more as separate but related episodes. Nine-year-old Peter is the narrator, and much of what he narrates is the trouble his two-year-old brother, Fudge, causes in Peter's life. For example, the story begins with Peter telling of how he won a small, green turtle at his friend Jimmy's birthday party. Peter comes home very excited because he finally has a pet. But Peter is nervous when he shows the turtle to Fudge. Although Peter tells Fudge he is never to touch the turtle, Fudge repeats Peter's command as if he understands but then breaks out into a crazy laugh. Peter suspects that Fudge is already planning some mischievous scheme.

In the next chapter, Peter's father invites the Yarby's to spend the night at their apartment. Mr. Yarby owns the Juicy-O company. Peter's father writes commercials for the sugary drink that Mr. Yarby's company makes. At first, the Yarbys think Fudge is cute, but by bedtime, the businessman and his wife have entirely different interpretations. Fudge makes a lot of noise, is obnoxious at the dinner table, and nearly ruins the Yarby's luggage by painting it. By the next morning, the Yarbys have had enough of Fudge and by way of proving it, Mr. Yarby fires Peter's father from the advertising account.

This is the general flow of Blume's novel. One catastrophe follows another as Fudge, though cute, turns the house upside down with his antics. In Chapter 3, for instance, Fudge refuses to eat for several days. His mother is frantic. She tries everything, including allowing Fudge to lick his food off his plate as if he were a dog. In Chapter 4, Fudge climbs on top of a jungle gym in the park and believing he can fly like a bird, jumps off. The fall he takes breaks his two front teeth. Peter gets in trouble for not taking better care of his brother, of course.

In Chapter 5, Fudge celebrates his third birthday with a party. He invites his friends Jennie, who bites Peter's grandmother, Sam, who is afraid of a windup toy, and Ralph, who overeats and gets sick.

In Chapter 6, Peter would like to go to the movies with his friend, Jimmy, but Peter's mom talks him into going with her and Fudge to the dentist. She suspects that she is going to need Peter to help her with Fudge, though this is not what she tells Peter. Rather, she...

(The entire section is 1138 words.)

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Chapter Summaries

Chapters 1-2 Summary

Chapter 1: "The Big Winner"

Nine-year-old Peter Warren Hatcher is in the fourth grade. His family lives on the twelfth floor of an old apartment building on West 68th Street in New York. The apartment has a great elevator, with mirrors all around and a bench to sit on. It is operated by a man named Henry Bevelheimer, who knows everybody in the building.

At his friend Jimmy Fargo's birthday party, Peter wins a tiny green turtle in a glass bowl for guessing how many jelly beans are contained in a jar; Peter names his turtle Dribble. When he brings Dribble home and shows him to his mother, she is not very pleased, but Peter promises to take care of his new pet himself. He carefully puts the turtle and its bowl in his room, on top of his dresser.

Peter's father works in the advertising business, and his current project is a commercial for Juicy-O. There is always plenty of Juicy-O at the apartment because the company sends it over by the crate. Peter has a two-and-a-half year old brother named Farley Drexel Hatcher, whom everyone calls Fudge. Fudge is always in Peter's way, throws tantrums when he gets mad, and "messes up everything he sees." He is very interested when he sees Dribble, and when Peter says sternly, "That's my turtle...don't touch him," the little boy "laugh[s] like crazy."

Chapter 2: "Mr. and Mrs. Juicy-O"

Mr. Yarby, the president of Juicy-O, is coming to town with his wife, and Father has invited them to stay at the Hatcher apartment instead of at a hotel. Mother fixes up Fudge's room for the guests, and moves Fudge's crib into Peter's room. Peter is not happy about having to share a room with his little brother, and offers to sleep on the couch in the living room, but his mother insists that he will have to stay in his own room, in his own bed.

Mother spends the whole day cooking, and sets up the dinner table, putting a lovely bowl of flowers right in the middle of it. Peter goes to Jimmy Fargo's...

(The entire section is 828 words.)

Chapters 3-4 Summary

Chapter 3: "The Family Dog"

Peter learns to stand on his head in gym class, and when he demonstrates this skill for his family, they are all impressed. Fudge wants to do it too, so Peter tries to teach him, but every time the little boy turns upside down, he tumbles backwards.

Right around this time, Fudge inexplicably stops eating. Mother does not pay too much attention to this at first, but after three days, she gets upset. Mother and Father try all sorts of tricks to get their youngest child to eat, but nothing works. The only way they can get food into his mouth is when Peter stands on his head and makes him laugh, but Peter soon tires of having to do this at every meal, and refuses to continue. He thinks that Fudge will eat when he gets good and hungry, and that his parents should leave his little brother alone.

One evening, Fudge pretends that he is a dog and Mother, desperate to get him to eat, feeds him under the table. After a week of this, Peter starts to feel like they really do have a family dog, and imagines how nice it would be if they could trade Fudge in for a cocker spaniel. Mother takes Fudge to see four different doctors, but none of them seem very concerned. They agree with Peter that the child will eat when he gets hungry, and that until then, everyone should just leave him alone.

In desperation, Mother makes Fudge his favorite food, lamb chops; the rest of the family is having stew. Peter thinks it is pretty mean of his mother to make lamb chops just for his stubborn brother and not for him. Fudge, however, does not want lamb chops, and demands Corn Flakes. When Mother gives him the cereal, he refuses to eat that too.

By this time, Father has had enough. He tells Fudge, "You will eat that cereal, or you will wear it!" When the little boy still will not cooperate, Father takes both him and the cereal up to the bathroom, stands him in the tub, and dumps the cereal over his head.

Fudge screams and screams, but Father makes the rest of the family ignore him and go back downstairs to finish their dinner. Peter is glad because for once, his bratty little...

(The entire section is 884 words.)

Chapters 5-6 Summary

Chapter 5: "The Birthday Bash"

When Fudge turns three, Mother decides that he should have a party. She invites three of his playmates (Ralph, Sam, and Jennie) to the apartment, and she enlists Grandma and Peter to help. Ralph, who arrives first, is very large for his age and does not say much, while Sam is afraid of everything and Jennie bites.

Grandma begins the party by giving everyone party hats and lighting the candles on the cake. After Peter leads the children in singing "Happy Birthday to You," Fudge blows out the candles, then grabs an icing rose off his cake. Following Fudge's lead, Ralph also reaches over to scoop out a rose. When Jennie sees that there is not enough for her to have one too, she bites Grandma on the hand. When Ralph finishes his cake, he asks for another piece. Peter does not think he should have it, but Mother gives him one anyway. Ralph finishes it and then promptly throws up all over the floor.

Fudge opens his presents and is very excited about the jack-in-the-box Jennie has brought him, but Sam cries because he is afraid of it, so Grandma must put it away. Ralph gives Fudge a little wind-up car, but when the birthday boy opens the gift, Ralph grabs it from him, shouting, "MINE!" Sam brings Fudge a big picture dictionary, identical to the one the Yarbys had given Peter during their visit a few months ago. When Fudge sees the book, he gets angry and throws it across the room, and Sam starts crying again.

Mother has read somewhere that three-year-olds like to dance around with balloons, so she has Peter give each of the children a balloon to hold. Instead of dancing, however, they begin jumping up and down on the furniture, running from room to room and having a great time. Mrs. Rudder from downstairs comes up to complain about the racket, and out of desperation, Mother asks Peter to bring out his turtle to entertain the party-goers.

...

(The entire section is 807 words.)

Chapters 7-8 Summary

Chapter 7: "The Flying Train Committee"

When the fourth grade begins a group project on The City, Peter is assigned to work with Jimmy Fargo and Sheila on the topic of Transportation. Sheila takes charge of the group, because as a girl, she thinks she is smarter than the others. Sheila decides that Peter and Jimmy will create the required poster, while she will write up most of the booklet herself.

The group meets at Peter's apartment two afternoons a week, and Peter is pleased because his mother arranges for Fudge to stay at a playmate's house during their meeting times. Jimmy and Sheila arrive by three-thirty, and then, after having a snack and playing with Dribble for about half an hour,...

(The entire section is 768 words.)

Chapters 9-10 Summary

Chapter 9: "Just Another Rainy Day"

On Saturday, it rains. Father decides to take the boys to a movie, even though Peter suggests that Fudge "is very young to go." Peter hopes to see a good Western with "lots of action," but Father chooses a movie called A Bear's Life, which is playing in the neighborhood.

Right after the family settles into their seats, a big boy sits in front of Fudge, so he has to change seats with Father. This puts Fudge on the aisle, with Peter in the middle, and Father on the other side. When the movie begins, Fudge talks very loudly and throws popcorn at the people around him. Peter thinks that he was right when he told his father that his little brother is...

(The entire section is 791 words.)