A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
JUNE 16:

  • Happy birthday Paul Rogers (Jazz ABZ), Jennifer L. Holm (Turtle in Paradise), and Joyce Carol Oates (Big Mouth & Ugly Girl; After the Wreck, I picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away).
  • It’s the birth date of Zachary Ball (1897-1987), Bristle Face, and Isabelle Holland (1920-2002), The Man Without a Face.
  • For National Fudge Day, also read Peeny Butter Fudge by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, and The Chocolate Fudge Mystery by David A. Adler.

Today marks National Fudge Day—and I intend to celebrate. For children’s books aficionados, fudge not only conjures up food but also one of Judy Blume’s most original characters, Fudge, the younger brother of Peter, hero of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

When I entered the children’s book field in the seventies, Judy Blume reigned as the most controversial writer of the time. She talked about menstruation in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. She ventured into sex in Forever. She was frank and forthright, believing that children deserved the truth in books. Hence, she spent decades defending First Amendment rights for books for children, an accomplishment that has been recognized by various groups.

In the early nineties, when critic Zena Sutherland wrote her passionate defense of Judy Blume for Children’s Books and Their Creators, she claimed that “in her books for younger readers…Blume is at her amusing best.” If my graduate students in their twenties and thirties are an accurate representation of their generation, then Judy Blume will be remembered for her series of books about Fudge, Peter, and their friends.

We first meet this crowd in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. As Peter informs us in the first chapter: “My mother isn’t my biggest problem. Neither is my father….My biggest problem is my brother, Farley Drexel Hatcher. He’s two and a half years old. Everyone calls him Fudge.” And the entire book, filled with episodic chapters, shows how easily Fudge brings chaos into Peter’s life. Never has a younger brother terrorized an older one more effectively. In the final chapter, Fudge even swallows Peter’s pet turtle.

Based on Blume’s own children, and filled with her wit, humor, insight into childhood emotion and spot-on dialogue, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and its four sequels have become sure-fire hits with the emerging reading crowd. At least two publishers, including Blume’s own Bradbury Press, turned the first book down, and early reviews, like the one in Booklist, claimed that “Fudge is too exaggerated to be very believable.” Fortunately Ann Durrell of Dutton was an editor who delighted “when a character in a Judy Blume book peed on the rug at a birthday party.” In fact, Durrell convinced Blume to change the manuscript from a picture book to a novel and provide more stories about this hysterically funny family. Blume’s most popular title with nine million copies in print, the book has gone through countless editions and been translated into more than twenty languages. On the 2001 PW bestseller list, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing ranks as the #3 bestselling paperback of all time.

Today let’s raise a piece of fudge or a glass of bubbly to Judy Blume. Thank you for keeping faith with children; thank you for years of defending the right of authors to be honest and true in their books; and thank you for this fabulously funny book and its sequels, which have convinced children that “reading can be fun.”

Here’s a passage from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing:

“Did you take Mommy’s pretty flowers?” my mother asked him.

“No take,” Fudge said. He was chewing on something.

“What’s in your mouth?” my mother asked.

Fudge didn’t answer.

“Show Mommy!”

“No show,” Fudge said.

“Oh yes!” My mother picked him up and forced his mouth open. She fished out a rose petal.

“What did you do with Mommy’s flowers?” She raised her voice. She was getting really upset.

Fudge laughed.

“Tell Mommy!”

“Yum!” Fudge said. “Yummy yummy yummy!”

Share

Originally posted June 16, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Family, Humor, Turtles
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Share

COMMENTS

  1. Erica S. says:

    The final chapter of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing makes for one of the best read-alouds with 3rd-6th graders. I read it to a group of 5th and 6th grade students in my library for World Read Aloud Day, and we were all cracking up (plus at least a dozen or so students immediately asked to check out the book to read more). Thank you, Judy Blume, for bringing much-needed humor to the children’s book world!

  2. suzi w. says:

    My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Medina, read this to us every day. It opened a whole new world of books to me, because not only that, we also had sustained silent reading after lunch. This was when I started reading at home instead of doing my math homework…

    I learned so much about life because I was introduced to Judy Blume. And I will NEVER ever forget “eat it or wear it.”

    Superfudge was a brand new book that year. It was 1980, and I was becoming a reader.

  3. Tom Angleberger says:

    Oh that rug pee scene!!
    Also must mention that Fudge was probably the best ever Kidlit TV show!

  4. Anita says:

    Yes, Tom, Judy Blume knew how to shake things up a bit! But she always kept faith with her readers.

  5. Dora says:

    Wow! ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing’ is one of the funniest books that I have ever read!
    It really is great for kids.

  6. Kathleen says:

    Great recommendation! The cleanup for the “tinkle” was great — a simple baggie. I laughed out loud!

  7. Suzette says:

    There are also many tributes to fudge in the Betsy-Tacy books!

  8. G.Perry says:

    The courage of Judy Blume takes my breath away.

    Though I am just reading her for the first time, and as an adult, I clearly recall there was a lot of negative talk and book banning going on about her work in some extremely conservative circles.

    I think that the old Puritan mantra, “Don’t tell them about it, they’ll do it,” should have gone away long, long ago. Responsible information for responsible choices.

  9. Joanne Levy says:

    It’s been a long time since I’ve read this, but I think I definitely need to revisit. Judy Blume ROCKS.

  10. Miss Caitlyn says:

    G. Perry I love your phrase, “Responsible information for responsible choices.”
    Well said!!

  11. Chelsea DeTorres says:

    Growing up, my youngest sister was Fudge: twizzlers smeared into the etchings of my guitar, hair off my barbies, and worse. Judy Blume gave me hope that I wasn’t the only one dealing with out of control, out of this world, siblings. Fabulous book, especially the ending!

Leave a Comment

Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics . . .

The new books on their way to becoming classics . . .

And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large.