Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

by Judy Blume

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Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Summary

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a novel by Judy Blume in which the mischievous Fudge wreaks havoc on the lives of his family, especially that of his older brother, Peter. 

  • Peter, the fourth grade "nothing," writes about his two-year-old brother Fudge's antics. As the older brother, Peter bears the brunt of Fudge's tricks and schemes.

  • Fudge's rambunctious behavior gets his father fired from his job. Fudge also destroys one of Peter's school projects before swallowing Peter's turtle, which dies.

  • In recognition of the patience Peter has shown in dealing with Fudge, his parents finally allow him to have a dog.

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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 points out that going to town together will be fun. Peter doubts it.

They first go to the dentist's office, where Dr. Brown cannot get Fudge to open his mouth. So Dr. Brown enlists Peter's help. Peter opens his mouth so Dr. Brown can count his teeth. Fudge says he can open his mouth too, but Dr. Brown tells him that he doesn't think so. Of course, both Dr. Brown and Peter are tricking Fudge, which is one certain way of getting Fudge to do what they want him to do. Next, Peter's mom takes them to the shoe store. Fudge wants to have shoes that look exactly like the ones that Peter is getting. But...

(This entire section contains 1153 words.)

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Mr. Berman, the shoe salesman, tells Fudge that Peter's shoes do not come in Fudge's size.  Fudge throws a fit, which is his usual response to not getting his way. So again, they have to trick him. Peter's mom makes Peter try on shoes that look exactly like the type of shoe she wants Fudge to wear. Fudge falls for the trick again, thinking that Peter's shoes will match his. Of course this is not true, but Fudge will not learn that until it is too late.

In Chapter 7, Peter works with his friend Jimmy and his classmate Sheila to put together a project for their class. The teacher assigned Sheila to Peter's group because they were to do the project at home and Sheila lived in the same apartment building. Peter claims he dislikes Sheila because she is such a know-it-all. True to her nature, Sheila bosses both Peter and Jimmy around, telling them what they are to do and how they should do it.  In the end, the project goes smoothly. The boys work on a poster, and Sheila works on a booklet that will be included. They are concentrating on how transportation could be improved in New York City, where they live.

The project is almost complete when Peter comes home to find that Fudge has decided to help them. He got into Peter's room when no one was paying attention to him and used markers to make the poster more colorful. In other words, Fudge ruined it. Peter is furious, of course, and yells at his mother for not watching Fudge and allowing him into his room. Peter insists that his parents put a lock on his door to keep his brother out of his things. Eventually, Peter's parents give in, and the three students are able to redo the poster and turn it in on time.

The story concludes with Dribble, Peter's pet turtle, going missing. Peter cannot find it anywhere. When he asks Fudge if he knows where his turtle is, Fudge points to his tummy. It takes Peter a while to understand that Fudge has actually swallowed the turtle. Peter's mom rushes Fudge to the hospital in an ambulance. While they wait for the doctor to show up, the only thing that Peter is concerned with is the fate of his turtle. Will the turtle survive? He will just have to wait and see, the doctor eventually tells Peter. It takes several days for the turtle to finally pass through Fudge's digestive system. By then, the turtle is dead. Fudge, on the other hand, is fine.

In the last few paragraphs of the novel, Peter is disgusted with his brother and all the presents he received while he was in the hospital. Peter thinks Fudge should have been punished instead. Then Peter's father comes home one day with a big box. Peter thinks it is another gift for Fudge. But his father tells Peter that this present is for him. Peter slowly opens one flap of the box and pushes his hand into it. He feels something furry first. Then something licks his hand. Peter's parents have rewarded Peter for all his patience with his younger brother. They have finally allowed him to have a dog.


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