What is it:
The Fudge Series is a collection of four books written by Judy Blume between 1972 and 2002 about a relationship between 9-year-old Peter and his little 2-year-old brother Farley “Fudge” Hatcher.
The first in the series, “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” was published in 1972. This focused on Peter’s experience in elementary school. In 1972, Blume also published another of her famous novels, “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great”. This book exists in the same place and time as the Fudge books, and the book refers to some of the same characters.
These were followed by “Superfudge” in 1980, where the family moves and the boys have a new sister, Tootsie. Ten years later, in 1990, “Fudge-a-Mania” came out. In this third book Fudge is now 5 and Sheila and her family play a larger role.
Thirty years after the original “Fourth Grade Nothing”, Blume published “Doublefudge” in 2002. In this final book of the series, Fudge learns of a cousin with the same name who is obsessed with money.
Who is it for:
Any child in elementary school with a sibling will appreciate the themes and characters, but boys around 9 years old, with a younger brother, will have the easiest time relating to the main character, Peter.
What Kids Like:
Kids like the realism. Judy Blume is a master at conveying the absurdity and occasional cruelty of children, in a fun, funny, and relatable way.
The books are available as audiobooks on CD, read by the author herself. This is my kids’ preferred method of enjoying the stories. They listen to them on repeat.
What Parents Like:
I like that my kids can enjoy some of the same now-classic books I read as a kid. And these books have a lot of wholesome and relatable depictions of family life, that end up teaching lessons about jealousy, competition, selfishness, and more.
What the Critics Think:
Blume’s books are all well-received, getting 4/5 stars or higher on most rating sites.
Not really any, but some scenes are a bit grosser or more realistic than I see in books published now.
Who Made it / History:
Judy Blume had her first book (“The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo”) in 1969 and is still at it. Her most recent novel (“In the Unlikely Event”) came out in 2015. All of her books are about the challenges and humor of siblings growing up together.
Her website has lots of information on her books and the stories behind them.
When I began to write our babysitter, Willie Mae Bartlett, brought me an article from the newspaper about a toddler who swallowed a tiny pet turtle. This was in the late sixties, when you could still buy turtles for pets. Willie Mae thought the story might inspire me. And it certainly did! I sat down and wrote a picture book called “Peter, Fudge and Dribble.” I submitted my manuscript to several publishers but they all rejected it. Two editors wrote personal notes saying they found the story very funny but one was concerned that it could lead to small children swallowing turtles, and the other found it too unbelievable to publish.
A few years later, my first agent submitted the story to Ann Durell, editor of children’s books at E.P. Dutton. Ann invited me to lunch. I was so nervous I could hardly eat but she was so warm and friendly I finally relaxed. Ann liked my story but she suggested, instead of a picture book, I consider writing a longer book about the Hatcher family, using “Peter, Fudge and Dribble” as one of the chapters.
I loved her idea and went home fired up and ready to write. That summer I wrote the book, basing the character of Fudge on my son, Larry, when he was a toddler. Though I still lived in suburban New Jersey, I set the book in New York City, in the building where my best friend, Mary Weaver, lived with her family. I changed the address but the elevator I describe in the book with its mirrored wall and upholstered bench is exactly as it was, and still is, in Mary’s building.
I proudly sent the finished manuscript to my agent but after she’d read it she said, “I don’t think this is anything like what Ann had in mind.” I was stunned and asked her to show it to Ann anyway. She did. Ann liked the manuscript and offered to publish it just as it was (I think it was the only book I’ve ever written that I didn’t revise). I was ecstatic.
We had a problem with my original title, “Peter, Fudge and Dribble,” because another book had just come out called “Peter Potts.” I couldn’t come up with anything I liked as well and finally sent Ann a list of twenty possibilities, among them, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. That’s the one Ann chose.
Where Can I Get it:
The books remain in print, as far as I can tell, but you may have an easier time finding them used or at the library.