Literary Criticism and Significance
Judy Blume is one of the most popular authors for emerging young adult readers. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is one of her most popular books. In a national survey published in USA Today, Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing came in fourth place as students' favorite book. And Blume herself is often praised for her long career in publishing books that touch the hearts of her readers. As a matter of fact, in an article written for U.S. News & World Report, an anonymous reporter referred to Blume as "the queen of children's books."
It is not so much the plot lines in Blume's books that are so memorable. What most people remember are her characters. In an article about an audio recording of this book, Shannon Maughan, writing for Publishers Weekly, described Blume's Thatcher boys as "truly original characters. And in a New York Times review, Jean Van Leeuwen claimed that "Fudge," the unflappable "pesky little brother" in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, is Blume's "best known" character. Van Leeuwen also found that Blume's books, such as this one, are always full of "wacky earthly disasters," that young readers really enjoy. But it is Blume's ability to create such interesting characters that endears her to her readers. Van Leeuwen also stated that Blume seems to have a "knack for knowing what children think about." Thus her characters feel real. A writer for California's Fresno Bee appeared to agree; this writer commented that the reason Blume is so popular with young audiences is that the characters in her stories "sound, well, childish." In other words, Blume's characters sound a lot like the people that children experience in their own lives. "Fudge can be," this commentator wrote, "noisy" and "annoying. Peter is often "uncertain," and Sheila is "self-absorbed."Washington Post writer Jennifer Frey referred to Blume's characters as seeming so real, she thought of them as "friends."
Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing proved so successful that a play and a television script were produced based on the book's characters. The play was produced in several states and enjoyed very good reviews and entertained audiences.
In an attempt to explain Blume's ability to appeal to readers, Susan A. Merkner, writing for the San Antonio Express-News, stated that Blume aims "her humorous insights straight at young readers." Also commenting on the author's ability to communicate with young readers, Cecelia Goodnow, writing for Seattle Post-Intelligencer, called Blume "one of the most popular children's book writers of all time." Jennifer Goldblatt, of the New York Times, called Blume a "stealth cultural icon." Goldblatt added that while other authors might have claimed more headlines during their careers, Blume has spent her career winning "the hearts and minds" of millions of her readers.