Where It Began
The book had a sort of lime-green border with a picture of a kid in a multicolored striped shirt standing next to a tipping fishbowl on a small table. The story had something in it about a turtle and a kid in the fourth grade. That is pretty much all I could remember of the details of Judy Blume's book Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
The experience of reading the book, on the other hand, stuck with me all these twenty-five years later. I remember asking to go to bed early to read. I remember "sneak reading" using the light in the bottom of my bedroom lamp that served as my night light. I remember falling asleep with this book on my head and my parents telling me about it the next day! I remember, for the first time ever, laughing out loud from a book.
Why This Book Is So Important
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothinghas always played a significant role in my life as a reader because I do believe it was with this book that I first fell into what I like to call "book love." Reading that book, on my own, has counted as my earliest memory of wanting to rush everything just to get back to my book! I have sung its praises for this reason for as long as I can remember, but would always come up short when people would ask seemingly simple questions like
- What was the book about?
- Why did you like it so much?
- What was so funny about it?
For years my absent-mindedness did not bother me in the least. However, in the last year or so (probably because I have a lot more time to just think about things) I got to wondering what really hooked me. I wondered how Judy Blume managed to captivate me without magic, fantasy or having characters stuck on some deserted island. About a month ago, I decided to find out; I decided to reread the book.
Sounds simple. I thought it would be, but, strangely, there were a couple of obstacles in my way!
- First Stop: My iPad. Well, that didn't work. This book was not distributed in digital form and I haven't been able to read a printed book for about two years. However, I thought about this conundrum for a little while, and realized something: I don't work anymore. I don't have kids. If a book sends me into a headache-spiral of hell, then we'll have to order dinner in! In other words, there was really no reason for me not to at least try to read the printed book.
- Second Stop: My Barnes and Noble. Right up the block, I charged right into the children's section. There were no copies of the book.
- Third Stop: Borders in the Mall. Guess what? No book. The salesperson told me that the children's section was the first to get wiped clean (that made me kind of happy...).
|The book, in my hand finally!|
- Fourth, and Final Stop: Barnes and Noble in Brooklyn. I had to go down to the Board of Education to do some paperwork that made me pretty miserable, checking out the B&N across the street was just about the only ray of sunshine in my day, and boy did it pay off! They had the book!! Finally!!
I made for really bad company on the trip home that day. I read on the train and on the ferry, and, you know what? A couple of times I even laughed out loud just like I did the first time I read the book!
I remembered so little of the story, but I could instantly see why this book was so right for me when I was a child:
- It was set in New York.
- The protagonist, Peter, had a little brother, Fudge, that was really, in so many ways the center of his whole world.
- Peter tries to be polite and "grown-up" and wishes Fudge could just do the same.
- Fudge likes to be involved in whatever Peter is doing.
- Peter has to do things like get a pair of shoes he doesn't want to ever wear just so his little brother will want them too!
- When Peter's dad is left alone to take care of the kids, he kind of has no idea what he is doing .
I had an absolute BLAST rereading this book. I'm so happy I finally did it and I believe this reread will be marked in my memory with the same level of importance in this reader's life as the first read.
Why Rereading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Was One of the Best Things I Have Done THIS YEAR:
- The book held up. I was so worried the book just wouldn't be as good. I feared that my memory has placed it on some beautiful, impossible pedestal of worthiness that I would not be able to appreciate as an adult. Those fears were unfounded, Judy Blume is that good.
- The book captured a time. As I rad through the pages of this book, I felt as though I was transported in time, back to the 1980s, remembering the carefree joy of my childhood, the love of my family and the interesting kinds of worries I carried as a big sister. It was strange that this book took me there, but it was also so magical.
- I READ A PRINTED BOOK. I'm not entirely sure I made that large enough for you, but, for the first time in two years I read words, off a page and didn't need days of rest in between. Now, grant it, the book took me much longer to read than a 110 page children's book should, but WHO CARES?!
I held a book.
I turned pages.
I smelled the paper.
I could touch the words.
I READ A BOOK.
It was beautiful, and, for that, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing shall forever be remembered as my first and truly faithful book love.
This book introduced me to a world of wonder when I was younger that I will forever be grateful for. I was always the girl with a book - on my nightstand, in my backpack, in my pocketbook, by the pool and under my desk. I don't know how long it would have taken me to discover that world had I not found Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, or if I ever would have. Judy Blume simply showed me how enjoyable reading could be.
Some 25 years later, due to what seemed like a bunch of obstacles for no reason, this book brought me back from a hibernation I wasn't sure I would wake from. Since reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I have read four other printed books and I am on my fifth. I am getting faster and tomorrow I am going to the library! I couldn't be happier. Reading the story brought back the joy of my childhood, but being able to read the book has revived the joy in my adulthood.
I take it word by word, page by page and book by book. Some days are easier to read than others, but hope is restored!
What was your first "book love"?
What was your last book love (I'm always looking for something great to read!)?
The term book love comes from Steve Leveen's book,
I highly recommend the book!