Tales of a Fantastic Fourth-Grader
My fourth grade teacher read my class this book years ago, and I immediately went out and bought it after she finished. Almost any kid can relate to nine-year-old Peter Hatcher. He's trying to survive fourth grade and all that entails while simultaneously dealing with a three-year-old brother who messes up everything in sight and gets away with blue murder, particularly when Mom's around. Little Fudge is the epitome of annoying sibling-hood--you were either raised in the same house as this kid or knew someone who had a sibling like this. He refuses to eat, causing Mom, Dad, and Grandma no end of worry, and gets his favorite foods made for him on demand. He throws epic tantrums. He smears food on walls. He tries to fly off the jungle gym, netting an early visit from the tooth fairy. He ruins Peter's school project, blows a hole in his social life, and just plain drives him nuts. Peter can't win, it seems--until one of Fudge's antics forces him to confront the fact that he loves his little brother. Fortunately, it also forces Mom and Dad to deal with the fact that as the oldest, Peter often gets shortchanged with Fudge around. Peter often gets impatient with Fudge, but he's never cruel. In fact, he tries to understand the little guy as best he can and in the end, that's rewarded.
The major caveat here is values dissonance. This book was first published in the '70s, so some discipline methods may grate on parents. For example, when Fudge begs for Corn Flakes and refuses to eat them, Dad's solution is to dump the cereal on Fudge's head. Both parents lose their cool occasionally, and Mom smacks Fudge's backside on one occasion. Considering today's climate, it might also be disconcerting to see nine-year-old kids hanging out alone in Central Park. Otherwise, this is a fun book with an ending as sweet as--well, fudge.