Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Guys, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is so absolutely precious. It was one of my favorites when I was a kid. So is it worth reviewing on a blog where I make fun of stuff?

Meh, why not? It's pleasant to read a book that doesn't stir in me a desire to punch the author. Here's the cover of the book I grew up with:

Peter Hatcher is a nine-year-old fourth grader growing up in New York City. He lives in an eleventh floor apartment with his mom and dad and little brother Farley Drexel Hatcher, aka Fudge. Fudge is an absolute disaster! He will single-handedly ruin every situation he and Peter find themselves in.

When Peter's dad (who works in advertising) invites an important client to the Hatcher home, Fudge scares away the client and his wife with his disobedient and silly behavior. Later, Mr. Hatcher loses the account. When Mrs. Hatcher takes the boys shopping for new shoes, Fudge throws a fit over his mother's choice of footwear and has to be tricked into buying shoes "like Pee-tah's". Fudge smears mashed potatoes on the wall at Hamburger Heaven and dumps a bowl of peas over his head for good measure. When Mrs. Hatcher leaves Peter, his best friend Jimmy Fargo and Peter's classmate Sheila in charge of Fudge at the playground, Fudge jumps off the jungle-gym, knocking out and swallowing his front two teeth (this leads to a funny inner monologue from Peter where he refers to his brother as Fang Hatcher).

Worst of all is when Fudge literally eats Peter's pet turtle, Dribble. Peter won Dribble as a prize at Jimmy Fargo's birthday party and is devastated that his mother allowed Fudge into his room without supervision and that his parents seem more concerned about Fudge's health than the fact that Peter has lost his beloved pet. In the end, the Hatchers give Peter a dog to make up for the loss of Dribble. Peter names the dog 'Turtle'.

I think what I love most about this book is how endearing Peter is without being wimpy or phony. He's sweet and has more manners than... well... any kid I've come across in a long time, but he doesn't try to pretend to like Fudge when Fudge is being truly unlikable. He even tells his mother at one point that he hates Fudge, although Mrs. Hatcher convinces him that he's just upset about Fudge destroying Peter's school project.

There are really only a few little notes on things I didn't like. Firstly, Peter's dad is an incompetent boob when Mrs. Hatcher goes to visit her sister. He doesn't change Fudge's clothes the whole time Mrs. Hatcher is away and they're forced to eat peanut butter sandwiches for dinner because he couldn't manage the complex task of making omelets for the boys. I believe this book was written in the late 70's... after the feminist movement... way to reinforce the incompetence of men in a domestic role. Eesh. Secondly, Fudge is rewarded for eating Peter's turtle. I get that he had to go to the E.R. and that's scary for a three-year-old, but Peter says Fudge was given presents after he returns to the apartment from the hospital. Uh... Fudge did something bad. I think spending the night in the hospital is punishment enough for what he did, but to buy him gifts afterwards? Also eesh.

In conclusion, read this book. And the follow-ups, Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania and Double Fudge... although Tales will always be my favorite.