100 Chapter Books Project: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Number 35 on the Top 100 list is one many of us probably read as kids, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (1972) by Judy Blume. And yet, though I know I read it (probably more than once), I apparently only remembered one thing about it and I remembered that one thing wrong. The rest of it was entirely, and strangely, unfamiliar.

What it’s about: Peter Hatcher is trying to deal with the normal things that come along with being nine but he can’t because of one seriously abnormal thing, his two year old brother Fudge.

Age level: Grade 2-4

Best thing: The only scene that I really enjoyed was when Peter and two other students are dividing the work on a group project. It was so familiar and well-written that it easily reminded me of my school days.

Worst thing: I listened to the audiobook version of this story, read by the author, and it was AWFUL. Her voices were so annoying, most of all her version of Fudge who sounded just like Caillou (parents of young ones will know what I’m talking about). At one point, I almost switched to a text copy because I couldn’t stand listening any longer. Then I saw I had just 20 minutes left and suffered through it just to be done.

Verdict: Borrow/Skip

I know I read the sequel to this book, Superfudge, many more times than I ever read this one so I’m assuming that even as a kid I liked that one better. I would have to reread it now though to find out why because I apparently don’t remember anything about it either. And do you know what? This bothers me because there are books that I read when I was even younger that I remember tons about. It makes me think that these books are ultimately forgettable. Obviously others felt differently, but I wouldn’t have voted for this book. It’s very dated now. Fudge is a nightmare who doesn’t see any real consequences to the things he does and his bad behavior just keeps escalating. The parents are clueless and somewhat stupid, both at home and at work. And Peter isn’t much better, spending more time complaining than anything else.

I really am sad that my sparse but fond memories of this book didn’t hold up on re-read as an adult. I am also questioning why Z’s teacher read the book to them in class as I found very little of value in it. It teaches that parents always give their younger children the benefit of the doubt while their older ones suffer, that bosses are all jerks and you just have to learn to handle them properly and that pets are expendable rather than being treasured members of the family. There are much better books out there, both new and old, that should be shared.

Is this a book that you’ve re-read recently? What was your experience like? Do you read this to your kids/students?

After this sad experience of revisiting this book, I look forward to a first time through my next one — Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. It will be my second of his books and I assume it will be as fantastic as the other.

*****

Schedule – March through June

note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after

March 31 – #60 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999)

April 15 –  #90 The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston (1954)

April 30 – Spring Break!

May 15 – #68 The High King by Lloyd Alexander (1968)

May 31 – #85 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997)

June 15 – #54 Half Magic by Edward Eager (1954)

More Female Characters Who Deserve Their OWN Damn Books!

Originally published at April Boland’s blog. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Huffington Post recently published an article entitled, These 8 Female Characters In Literature Deserve Their Own Damn Books.” Fantastic idea for an article.

“These beloved books are perhaps best known for their male narrators and protagonists. Still, we’d contend that these novels’ dynamically flawed and endlessly fascinating female supporting characters each possess depth and complexity deserving of a novel all their own.”

 

  1. Sunny from Catcher in the Rye
  2. Mary Lou from On the Road
  3. Lolita from Lolita
  4. Brett from The Sun Also Rises
  5. Penelope from The Odyssey
  6. Gertrude from Hamlet
  7. Miss Havisham from Great Expectations
  8. Merry from American Pastoral

Very interesting and varied choices, yet I had a pretty strong reaction to #1 – Sunny, the prostitute with a cameo in one scene (albeit a great one), deserves her own book more than Phoebe, Holden’s plucky little sister who is sharp and hilarious?

So I thought I’d make my own list. Behold:

More Female Characters Who Deserve Their Own Damn Books

  1. Phoebe from Catcher in the Rye
    You’d like her. I mean if you tell old Phoebe something, she knows exactly what the hell you’re talking about. I mean you can even take her anywhere with you. If you take her to a lousy movie, for instance, she knows it’s a lousy movie. If you take her to a pretty good movie, she knows it’s a pretty good movie.”
  2. Oryx from Oryx and Crake
    Oryx is a beautiful woman with a sad past who seems to live in the background of the story, serving to cause rivalry between long-time friends Jimmy and Crake. I think there is more of her story to be heard.
  3. Hermione from the Harry Potter series
    I’m thinking a serial graphic novel of her adventures, taking down cheeky boys like Draco and overcoming Muggle stereotypes, as well as exploring her home life and inner world, which we only briefly glimpse. What a great role model for young girls!
  4. Pilate from Song of Solomon
    What an incredible character. While the novel is about Milkman, she represents links to the past and a special kind of wisdom and rebellion. She is his spirit guide. I would be interested to hear about her entire life, from her perspective.
  5. Myrna Minkoff from The Confederacy of Dunces
    Seriously, who doesn’t love Myrna and her back-and-forth with the protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly? I loved their interactions, especially when she lectures him about his sexual repression. Both of them have no sense of self-awareness and are prescriptive and bossy, but they are also just a couple of misfits finding comfort in each other.
  6. Mary (“Maggie”) of Magdala in Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
    Mary completes the trio formed by Biff and young Jesus Christ, and she keeps them both on their toes. I would like to hear from her more than we do, and see her perspective on the whole growing-up-with-Christ scenario.

Leave a comment with the female characters you think should have their own damn books!

100 Chapter Books Project: When You Reach Me

For a book from 2009, it’s somewhat surprising that When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is already near the top of the Top 100 list at number 11. But, as it ties in to the number one book, A Wrinkle in Time, it makes a bit of sense.

What it’s about: Miranda’s life becomes pretty strange when her best friend stops talking to her, she gets a job at the local sandwich shop during lunch with a couple of new friends, and her mom begins practicing for an appearance on a gameshow. Of course, these things are all nothing compared to the strange notes that have started appearing in her stuff, asking her to record all of the current events in her life (including the location of her spare house key) in a letter.

Age level: Grade 4-7

Best thing: Time travel. I love it and I especially love how it’s used in this book (even though it leads to a very bittersweet ending).

Worst thing: I’m not really sure. I like this book a lot but I don’t absolutely love it and I can’t put my finger on why. Miranda is flawed but she’s a sixth grader. It would be weird if she had perfect social graces and loads of tact, right? I don’t know. I think maybe there were just too many issues squeezed into this tiny book. A few of the plot lines felt a bit thin.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

So the question from many of you is probably “Do I need to read A Wrinkle in Time first?” I would mostly say yes. The way it’s mentioned in the book is only in brief snippets. It’s not that they wouldn’t make sense but that they just make more sense with some background knowledge. It’s Miranda’s favorite book so she talks about it from the perspective of someone who has read the book dozens of times. Still, I think it’s a good enough book that you COULD read it without a pre-read. It’s also about friendships and family and first love and those are things we all already know about.

On a totally unrelated note, tomorrow is the start of Diana Wynne Jones March. If you haven’t heard of this event yet, head on over to my blog and check out the launch post! It’s a celebration of all things DWJ for the entire month of March. None of her books made it onto this list but they are some of the best children’s and young adult fiction ever.

*****

Schedule – March through May

note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after

March 15 – #35 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (1972)

March 31 – #60 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999)

April 15 –  #90 The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston (1954)

April 30 – Spring Break!

May 15 – #68 The High King by Lloyd Alexander (1968)

May 31 – #85 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997)