Study Guide

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Quotes

  • Family

    Some people might think that my mother is my biggest problem. She doesn't like turtles and she's always telling me to scrub my hands. (1.17)

    Moms can be a pain sometimes. But even Peter knows that she's not his biggest problem… she's only a part of the problem. It's his brother who really drives him crazy.

    But my mother isn't my biggest problem. Neither is my father. He spends a lot of time watching commercials on TV. That's because he's in the advertising business. (1.18)

    Dad gets off the hook because he's busy with work and isn't the one always reminding Peter to wash his hands and asking him to help with Fudge. He shows up for the fun stuff.

    My biggest problem is my brother, Farley Drexel Hatcher. He's two-and-a-half years old. Everybody calls him Fudge. I feel sorry for him if he's going to grow up with a name like Fudge, but I don't say a word. It's none of my business. (1.19)

    You can see Peter's mixed feelings about Fudge. On one hand, he's his biggest problem. On the other he feels sorry for him growing up with a weird nickname. Fudge isn't an easy person to pity when he's such a little terror, but Peter's still protective of him.

    Fudge is always in my way. He messes up everything he sees. And when he gets mad he throws himself flat on the floor and he screams. And he kicks. And he bangs his fists. The only time I really like him is when he's sleeping. He sucks four fingers on his left hand and makes a slurping noise. (1.20)

    Sounds like Fudge is going through a classic case of the terrible twos. The image of him sucking his fingers when he's asleep makes us realize how young Fudge really is.

    Sometimes my mother laughs like crazy at my jokes. Other times she pretends not to get them. And then, there are times when I know she gets them but she doesn't seem to like them. This was one of those times. So I decided no more jokes until after dinner. (2.12)

    Peter's been around long enough to know when he should stop bugging his mom. It's clear that she's super tense right now because they're about to have company, and he decides to stay out of the way.

    "But if we did," Mr. Yarby told my father, "we'd teach them some manners. I'm a firm believer in old fashioned good manners."

    "So are we, Howard," my father said in a weak voice. (2.86-87)

    How does Mr. Yarby think it's okay to come out and tell his hosts that their kids don't have any manners? Especially when he's never had any kids of his own. It's a wonder that Mr. Hatcher doesn't kick the Yarbys out for being so rude, but Mr. Yarby is an important client, and Mr. Hatcher needs his business.

    I thought how great it would be if we could trade in Fudge for a nice cocker spaniel. That would solve all my problems. I'd walk him and feed him and play with him. He could even sleep on the edge of my bed at night. But of course that was wishful thinking. My brother is here to stay. And there's nothing I can do about it. (3.27)

    That's the great thing about dogs. They don't act mischievous and don't mess up your stuff. Oh, wait…

    Grandma said she'd come over to help. My father couldn't make it. He had a Saturday business appointment. I wanted to go to Jimmy Fargo's but my mother said she needed me to supervise the games. (5.13)

    Because Peter's responsible and sensible, he often has to help out with Fudge. Peter would rather be hanging out with his friends, but he has to do his duty as the big brother and help out at Fudge's birthday party. Totally not fun for him, but he's a good kid and does it anyway. He knows how stressed his mom can get when she's with Fudge, let alone three other toddlers.

    My mother said we'd make a day of it. And wouldn't that be fun.

    "I'd rather go to the movies with Jimmy Fargo," I told her.

    "But we'll have such a good time," my mother said. "The three of us will go out for lunch and then we'll get new shoes for you and Fudge." (6.3-5)

    Peter's pretty skeptical about his mother's scheme. Parents who read this will be forced to silently admit to themselves how they often try to convince their kids how much fun it will be to do something totally un-fun.

    Soon the nurse said, "Fudge, Dr. Brown is ready for you. Come with me now." Fudge took the nurse's hand. Dr. Brown has this rule about mothers in the examining room with kids—they're not allowed. Mothers are a big problem, Dr. Brown told me once. I agreed. (6.16)

    Like Peter, the dentist knows that his mother can be overprotective. She'd just fuss over Fudge and make things worse. It's cool how Dr. Brown kind of conspires with Peter to complain about it. It makes Peter feel grown up and respected.

  • Friendship

    I'm allowed to walk over by myself as long as I'm going to be with friends. My mother doesn't want me hanging around the park alone.

    For one thing, Jimmy Fargo has been mugged three times—twice for his bicycle and once for his money. (4.1-2)

    No wonder Peter's parents won't let him go to Central Park by himself. But lucky for Peter, he has buddies. With Jimmy at his side, he'll be less of a target. Guess that's part of being a New York City kid: you have to watch out for muggers.

    On a nice sunny afternoon I called for Jimmy Fargo and we went to the park. Jimmy is the only kid on my block who's in my class at school. Unless you count Sheila. And I don't. (4.11)

    Despite the fact that few kids from school live on Peter's block, he's still not willing to stoop to the level of considering Sheila a friend. She's way too bossy, and he's just not willing to put up with that. Plus, she's a girl and that can't help.

    Henry, the elevator operator, is always making jokes about me and Sheila. He thinks we like each other. The truth is, I can't stand her. She's a real know-it-all. But I've discovered that most girls are. (4.11)

    Much to Peter's dismay, everyone in his life likes to tease him about liking Sheila. Adults can be so weirdly insistent about forcing kids to be friends, even when they're like Peter and Sheila and have nothing in common. What do you think of Peter's remark stereotyping girls?

    Me and Jimmy have this special group of rocks where we like to play when we're in the park. We play secret agent up there. Jimmy can imitate all kinds of foreign accents. Probably because his father's a part-time actor. (4.14)

    Even rocks can be special when you're with a good friend. Jimmy's like Peter in that both their dads have seriously stereotypical New York City jobs—struggling actor and ad man.

    "Please, Peter. I'll be right back. I'll feel better if all three of you are watching him."

    "What do you say?" I asked Jimmy. "Sure," he answered. "Why not?" (4.36-38)

    Instead of complaining about having to babysit Fudge the Terror, Jimmy just goes along with it. He knows that Peter doesn't have a say in this whole situation anyway. Without his friends, it would be a lot harder for Peter to put up with his little brother and his rambunctious ways. Some kids might avoid hanging out with someone with a troublesome brother. Not Jimmy.

    He was screaming and crying and his face was a mess of blood. I couldn't even tell where the blood was coming from at first. Then Jimmy handed me his handkerchief. I don't know how clean it was but it was better than nothing. I mopped some blood off Fudge's face. (4.56)

    It's a good thing that Peter has Jimmy around when Fudge has his bad accident. Sheila completely loses it and starts crying, but Jimmy keeps a level head. Maybe getting mugged three times makes dealing with Fudge seem like a piece of cake.

    Fudge is going to be three years old. My mother said he should have a birthday party with some of his friends. He plays with three other little kids who live in our building. There's Jennie, Ralph, and Sam. (5.13)

    Fudge is just a toddler, so he just plays with the other little kids in their building because it's easy to arrange playdates. He doesn't really choose his friends.

    But it still isn't much fun to have her hanging around. She's always complaining that she got stuck with the worst possible committee. And that me and Jimmy fool more than we work. (7.5)

    Some of Sheila's complaining might have to do with the fact that Peter and Jimmy are best buds, so she feels a little left out.

    The hard part was explaining to Jimmy that we had to start all over again. He was a good sport about it. He said this time he'd make sure his truck didn't look like a flying train. And I said this time I'd make pencil marks first so my letters didn't go uphill. (7.81)

    Jimmy doesn't complain when Peter tells him the bad news about their school project. Instead of making Peter re-do all the work himself, he's happy to pitch in. He even makes it into something positive: this time, the project will be even better. He probably knew Peter felt terrible about it and he didn't want to make it worse.

    "Have a nice visit, Mrs. Hatcher," Henry told my mother when we reached the lobby.

    "Thank you, Henry," my mother said. "Keep an eye on my family for me."

    "Will do, Mrs. Hatcher," Henry said, giving my father a wink. (8.17-19)

    Getting to know all the people in your building is one way to feel connected when you live in a huge city like New York that can seem pretty impersonal.

  • Jealousy

    All the other guys looked at their goldfish. I knew what they were thinking. They wished they could have tiny green turtles too. (1.2)

    Peter likes it that the other kids are jealous; it makes him feel important. Most kids like to be the envy of their friends over something.

    Mrs. Yarby just gave me a nod. She was still busy with Fudge. "I have a surprise for this dear little boy," she said. "It's in my suitcase. Should I go get it?"

    "Yes," Fudge shouted. "Go get… go get." (2.47-48)

    Even their houseguests pay more attention to Fudge than they do to Peter. It's baffling to him; what's so great about that kid, anyway? Why does everyone make such a big fuss over him? It's hard having a cute little sibling when you're past your own cuteness peak.

    I said, "That's a nice train."

    Mrs. Yarby turned to me. "Oh, I have something for you too uh… uh…"

    "Peter," I reminded her. "My name is Peter." (2.53-55)

    To add insult to injury, Mrs. Yarby doesn't even remember Peter's name. He can't help but feel miffed that she's so attentive with Fudge and then completely overlooks him, even though he's been more polite and welcoming. Unfortunately, this is a pretty common experience for anyone who has an adorable little brother or sister. You know who you are.

    I can stay up for as long as three minutes. I showed my mother, my father, and Fudge how I can do it right in the living room. They were all impressed. Especially Fudge. He wanted to do it too. So I turned him upside down and tried to teach him. But he always tumbled over backward. (3.3)

    Fudge wants to be like his big brother. Being older means you can do cooler stuff like walking to Central Park and doing headstands, but sometimes Peter forgets that when Fudge is being showered with attention and presents.

    "No." I told her. "I'm not going to stand on my head anymore." I went into my room and slammed the door. I played with Dribble until suppertime. Nobody ever worries about me the way they worry about Fudge. If I decided not to eat they'd probably never even notice. (3.18)

    Peter doesn't always realize that the reason his parents don't worry about him as much is because they trust him to be reasonable and responsible. Unlike Fudge, who needs to be watched every second. Oh, the burden of being the firstborn kid…

    My mother thinks Sheila is the greatest. "She's so smart," my mother says. "And some day she's going to be a real beauty." Now that's the funniest. Because Sheila looks a lot like the monkeys that Fudge is so crazy about. (4.13)

    It's not surprising that Peter doesn't like Sheila. He already feels like he has to compete with Fudge for his mom's attention; it's not cool that Mrs. Hatcher is going around and praising Sheila, too.

    As soon as the nurse saw Fudge she said, "How's my favorite patient?" She gave him a hug and and a little book to read. To me she said, "Good morning, Peter."

    It burns me up the way people treat Fudge. He's not so special. He's just little, that's all. (6.14-15)

    Peter doesn't think this is fair at all, because he's the one who actually works at making a good impression. Just like his mom, though, the nurse probably realizes that Fudge needs all that special attention just so he won't be impossible to deal with.

    "No, I'm sorry, Fudge," Dr. Brown said, "it's still not as good as Peter."

    So Fudge opened his mouth really wide. "Count teeth." he said. "Count Fudgie's teeth." (6.36-37)

    Dr. Brown's a smart guy. He knows exactly how get Fudge to do what he wants: make him jealous of Peter.

    Fudge sat up. "Like Pee-tah's." he said.

    I smiled. I guess the kid really looks up to me. He even wants to wear the same kind of shoes. But everybody knows you can't buy loafers for such a little guy. (6.93-94)

    It's good for Peter to see how Fudge can be jealous of him, too. Most little boys want to be just like their big brother. And btw, toddler fashion choices have come a long way since 1972.

    My father picked up Fudge and held him on his lap. "Would you like to ride the Toddle-Bike, Fudge? It's just like the one you have at home."

    "Why are you asking him?" I said. "What does he know about making commercials?" (8.66-67)

    Mr. Hatcher knows: cute sells.

  • Guilt and Blame

    "I can use another one," I explained. "I really can. That old one is falling apart." I tried to laugh.

    "It's returnable," Mrs. Yarby said. "It's silly to keep it if you already have one." She sounded insulted. Like it was my fault she brought me something I already had. (2.70-71)

    Instead of being gracious about having brought Peter something that he already had, Mrs. Yarby seems to blame the situation on him. Peter's really acting more grownup than she is in this case, don't you think?

    "HATCHER." Mr. Yarby boomed. "Make him get that thing out of here."

    I wondered why Mr. Yarby called my father "Hatcher." Didn't he know his first name was Warren? And I didn't like the way Mr. and Mrs. Yarby both called Dribble a "thing." (2.81-82)

    Peter finds this totally rude. It's not Mr. Hatcher's fault that Fudge brought out the turtle. The Yarbys don't have kids, so they think that it's possible to totally control a two-year-old. Fudge probably thought, who wouldn't want to see a turtle?

    When Mr. Yarby went into Fudge's bedroom to pick up his suitcase, his voice boomed. "HATCHER."

    My father ran toward the bedroom… When we got there we saw Fudge sitting on the Yarbys' suitcase. He had decorated it with about one hundred green stamps. (2.105-106)

    Mr. Hatcher has to take the blame for all of Fudge's transgressions during Mr. and Mrs. Yarby's visit. Mr. Yarby seems intent on making him pay for every little kid prank.

    The next week my father came home from the office and collected all the cans of Juicy-O in our house. He dumped them into the garbage. My mother felt bad that my father had lost such an important account. But my father told her not to worry. (2.109)

    Mr. Hatcher must be stressed out by the fact that he lost a big account, but he doesn't take it out on his family. And he doesn't blame little Fudge.

    "My mother's going to kill you, Sheila." I said. Was I glad I wasn't left in charge of my brother.

    Sheila cried louder. "But it was an accident. He did it himself… himself…" (4.66-67)

    At first, Sheila is eager to have the job of taking care of Fudge, but as soon as things go south, she's afraid she'll be blamed for Fudge's accident. She really isn't ready for this child-care business. Honestly, though, who's ever really ready for Fudge?

    "Oh, Mrs. Hatcher. How awful. I'm sorry… I'm really very sorry," Sheila cried. "What will happen to him?"

    "He'll be all right, Sheila," my mother said. "I'm sure it was an accident. Nobody's blaming you." (4.88-89)

    Peter is absolutely shocked when his mother acts calmly to Sheila's hysterical crying and doesn't even get impatient or upset. Mrs. Hatcher (and Judy Blume) know how easy it is for kids to blame themselves when something bad happens, even if it's not their fault.

    "Yes… you see… I was very upset over Fudge's accident and I had to blame somebody. So I picked on you."

    "Yes," I said. "You sure did."

    "It wasn't your fault though. I know that. It was an accident. It could have happened even if I had been in the playground myself." (4.105-107)

    A good mom doesn't have to be perfect, but she knows when she's wrong and can apologize for it.

    After a while my mother knocked on my bedroom door and called, "Peter, may I come in?"

    I didn't answer.

    She opened the door and walked over to my bed. "I'm very sorry," she said.

    I still didn't say anything. (7.59-62)

    Fudge is the one who actually destroyed Peter's school project, but he blames his mother for not keeping a closer eye on Fudge. Now she's the one who feels guilty. Do you think parents are always to blame for their kids' misbehavior?

    "Mom," I said, shaking my head. "how could you?"

    "How could I what, Peter?" Mom asked.

    "How could you let him do it?"

    "Let who do what, Peter?" Mom asked.

    "LET FUDGE EAT DRIBBLE." I screamed. (10.24-28)

    This is the worst thing Fudge has ever done, and Peter needs to have his parents see how bad it is. Do you think the Hatchers keep a close enough eye on Fudge? Could they have prevented some of the catastrophes?

  • Youth

    My mother moved Fudge's crib into my room. He's going to get a regular bed when he's three, my mother says. (2.4)

    When the author writes about Fudge's crib, it clues us in to the fact that he's really still a baby even though he's two.

    I changed and scrubbed up while Fudge finished his supper. I was going to eat with the company. Being nine has its advantages (2.39)

    Peter may not get away with as much as Fudge, but there are some perks to being older. Considering what happens next, he probably wishes he'd gone to bed instead.

    "Isn't he the cutest little boy." Mrs. Yarby said. "I just love babies." She gave him a big kiss on the top of his head. I kept waiting for somebody to tell her Fudge was no baby. But no one did. (2.42)

    Peter simply doesn't get what the fuss is about babies and Fudge in particular. He's not even a little baby that you can carry around anymore, and he causes a lot more trouble than an older kid would.

    My present turned out to be a big picture dictionary. The kind I liked when I was about four years old…

    "I don't know much about big boys," Mrs. Yarby said. "So the lady in the store said a nice book would be a good idea." (2.57-58)

    It turns out that Mr. and Mrs. Yarby know absolutely nothing about kids at different ages since they never had kids of their own. Still, she does try to compliment Peter by calling him a big boy.

    When he still refused to eat she got upset. "You've got to eat, Fudgie," she said. "You want to grow up to be big and strong, don't you?"

    "No grow." Fudge said. (3.5-6)

    Mrs. Hatcher tries to tempt Fudge with the promise of growing up, but Fudge knows better than to fall for that. He's got a good thing going on as a little toddler. Who'd want to grow up when you're showered with attention and get away with murder?

    Even Fudge can ride. He has a little blue Toddle-Bike, a present from my father's client. And when he's riding he makes motorcycle noises. "Vroom—vroom—vroom." he yells. (4.9)

    Peter grudgingly admits that Fudge can be pretty funny and cute.

    I don't believe in cooties anymore. When I was in second grade, I used to examine myself to see if I had them. But I never found any. By fourth grade most kids give up on cooties. But not Sheila. She's still going strong. (4.12)

    Peter's annoyed by Sheila because she seems more immature than the other kids in their class. Cooties are so second grade.

    "Of course I can, Mrs. Hatcher," Sheila said. "I know all about baby-sitting from my sister."

    Sheila's sister Libby is in seventh grade. She's about as beautiful as Sheila. The only difference is, she's bigger. (4.30-31)

    Sheila likes to emulate her big sister and to pretend like she's all grown up and can take on responsibilities like watching Fudge. She has no idea what she's in for…

    We had an eater, a biter, and a crier. I thought that two-thirty would never come. I also thought my mother was slightly crazy for dreaming up the party in the first place. "Doesn't Fudge have any normal friends?" I whispered.

    "There's nothing wrong with Fudgie's friends," my mother whispered back. "All small children are like that." (5.27-28)

    We never get to see Peter when he's younger, but given what we know about him, do you think he was as difficult as Fudge and his friends?

    "Three is kind of young for a party," I told my mother.

    "Peter Warren Hatcher…" my mother began.

    "Yes?" I asked.

    "You are absolutely right." (5.121-123)

    After hosting Fudge's third birthday party, Mrs. Hatcher is ready to concede defeat. Peter was right all along.

  • Injustice

    "And I'm not going to take care of him either," my mother added.

    "Of course you're not," I told her. "He's my turtle. And I'm the one who's going to take care of him." (1.10-11)

    Instead of being happy for Peter when he wins the turtle at Jimmy Fargo's party, Mrs. Hatcher immediately gets stressed out. It's not Peter's fault that she's got so much going on. He's kind of offended that she acts like he won't be a good pet owner. On the other hand, is it fair of Peter to bring home a pet without asking his parents?

    But sure enough, when I checked, I saw two stems with nothing on them.

    "Don't look at me, Mom," I said. What would I do with two measly flowers?" (2.16-17)

    Why does Mrs. Hatcher always ask Peter when things go wrong? It's not like he's the troublemaker in the household. She should totally interrogate Fudge before even considering Peter. Foreshadowing alert: Notice how Fudge eating the flowers is a hint of something much worse that will happen later in the book.

    I thought Mr. Yarby had a lot of nerve to hint that we had no manners. Didn't I pretend to like their dumb old picture dictionary? If that isn't good manners, then I don't know what is. (2.88)

    Mr. Yarby is saying that the Hatcher kids have no manners, but he's the one acting like a creep. Peter can't help but judge him for his hypocrisy.

    But the next morning I put my foot down. "No. I don't want to stand on my head in the kitchen. Or anywhere else." I added, "And if I don't hurry I'll be late for school."
     
    "Don't you care if your brother starves?" (3.10-11)

    It's not Peter's job to find ways to entertain his brother in order to coax him into eating. He finds it ridiculous that his mother is trying to make him feel guilty for not wanting to stand on his head during every single mealtime.

    The next day my mother dragged Fudge to Dr. Cone's office. He told her to leave him alone. That Fudge would eat when he got hungry.

    I reminded my mother that I'd told her the same thing—and for free. But I guess my mother didn't believe either one of us because she took Fudge to see three more doctors. (3.29-30)

    Here's another instance where Peter feels that his mother just doesn't listen to him.

    My mother followed me. "Peter Warren Hatcher." she said. "I'm sorry that I can't trust you for just ten minutes."

    "Me?" I asked. "Trust me? What's this got to do with me?"

    My mother raised her voice. "I left your brother with you for ten minutes and just look at what happened. I'm disgusted with you." (4.94-96)

    Peter wasn't even in charge of Fudge at the playground, and now his mom is blaming him for the whole accident? How fair is that?

    "Mr. Berman can bring them out and you can try them on and then Fudge will think that's what you're getting. But when we leave we'll take the loafers."

    "That's mean," I said. "You're taking advantage of him."

    "Since when do you worry about that?" my mother asked. (6.103-105)

    It seems wrong that Mrs. Hatcher would try to trick gullible little Fudge, but Peter has to admit that it's a pretty good idea. Otherwise, they'll be at this shoe store for hours. Is that unfair or just practical?

    I could hardly speak. "Look," I said, feeling a lump in my throat. "Just look at what he did to my poster." I felt tears come to my eyes but I didn't care. "How could you let him?" I asked my mother. "How? Don't you care about me?" (7.57)

    Peter really lays it out here for his mom. This is the big injustice in his life, at least from his point of view. Nobody thinks about how Fudge is ruining his life. But is it fair for Peter to blame his mom for Fudge's misbehavior? We'll give him a pass; he's really distraught about the poster.

    My father picked up Fudge and held him on his lap. "Would you like to ride the Toddle-Bike, Fudge? It's just like the one you have at home."

    "Why are you asking him?" I said. "What does he know about making commercials?" (8.66-67)

    Peter thinks that he'd be way more qualified to star in a commercial, but of course Fudge is the one who gets picked. Because that's what always happens. Actually, Peter's way too old to be in a Toddle-Bike commercial, but it's just another little injustice for the long-suffering big brother.

  • Education

    In January our class started a project on The City. Mrs. Haver, our teacher, divided us up into committees by where we live. That way we could work at home. My committee was me, Jimmy Fargo, and Sheila. (7.1)

    Peter's in elementary school, which means that he gets to participate in one of the great frustrations of school life—working on the dreaded "group project." Even worse, the kids don't get to pick who's in their group.

    In a few weeks each committee had to hand in a booklet, a poster, and be ready to give an oral report. (7.1)

    This is one serious project.

    The first day we got together after school we bought a yellow posterboard. Jimmy wanted a blue one but Sheila talked him out of it. "Yellow is a much brighter color," she explained.

    Everything will show up on it. Blue is too dull." (7.2)

    It's no wonder that the boys don't want to work with Sheila. She has an opinion about absolutely everything, which makes it hard for them to have a say in their "group" project. It's more like Sheila's project, with Jimmy and Peter assisting.

    So right away she told us she would be in charge of our booklet and me and Jimmy could do most of the poster. As long as we check in with her first, to make sure she likes our ideas. We agreed, since Sheila promised to do ten pages of written work and we would only do five. (7.3)

    Well, there's one bright side to having Sheila as their partner in the group project. She's not going to skirt her responsibilities; in fact, she assigns herself more work than the boys have. We'll forgive her for being bossy.

    "I want a good mark on this project. Peter, you can write your five pages about the monorail system and how it works. Jimmy, you can write your five pages about pollution caused by transportation. And I'll write my ten pages on the history of transportation in the city." Sheila folded her arms and smiled. (7.15)

    The boys go along with Sheila's plan because it makes sense and she knows what she's doing. Still, she's an awfully smug person to have to work with.

    "That's not fair." Jimmy said. "This is supposed to be a group project. Why should I have to put my name on my five pages?" (7.18)

    Sheila isn't treating this like a group project at all; instead, she's making it look like they all did separate work. Guess she doesn't want to risk it if their work isn't as good as hers, which seems to be what she's thinking.

    "Well, I do have a nice even script," Sheila said. "But if I'm going to copy over your written work you better give it to me by next Tuesday. Otherwise, I won't have enough time to do the job. And you two better get going on your poster." Sheila talked like she was the teacher and we were the kids. (7.25)

    Shmoop bets you know someone in school just like Sheila. She knows it all and loves ordering everyone around.

    Me and Jimmy designed the whole poster ourselves. We used the pros and cons of each kind of transportation. It was really clever. We divided a chart into land, sea, and air and we planned an illustration for each—with the airplane done in silver sparkle and the letters done in red and blue Magic Marker. (7.26)

    Despite Sheila's misgivings about their abilities, Peter and Jimmy end up doing a bang-up job on the poster. You can tell Peter's really proud of it.

    That night I showed my mother and father our new poster. They thought it was great. Especially our silver-sparkle airplane. My mother put the poster on top of the refrigerator so it would be safe until the next day, when I would take it to school. (7.114)

    Notice how the author makes a point about telling us that Peter's parents put the poster on top of the fridge "so it would be safe." It's a little bit of foreshadowing—a hint of what's to come. In this case, it's a dead giveaway that this poster's not going to be safe at all.

    Our committee was the first to give its report. Mrs. Haver said we did a super job. She liked our poster a lot. She thought the silver-sparkle airplane was the best. (7.120)

    In the end, even though working with Sheila was a bit of a pain, their committee pulls through and does a great job on the project. Even the setbacks have only made their end product better. Thank Fudge for allowing them a do-over.

  • The Home

    I live at 25 West 68th Street. It's an old apartment building. But it's got one of the best elevators in New York City. There are mirrors all around. You can see yourself from every angle. There's a soft, cushioned bench to sit on if you're too tired to stand. (1.3)

    The elevator in the Hatchers' apartment is particularly cool and fancy. This is the reader's introduction to life in the big city. You can see that Peter loves where he lives.

    My father said he invited Mr. and Mrs. Yarby to stay with us. My mother wanted to know why they couldn't stay at a hotel like most people who come to New York. […] He thought they'd be more comfortable staying with us. My mother said that was about the silliest thing she'd ever heard. (2.2)

    You've got to hand it to Peter's mom—she has a good point. Their apartment is a bit crowded for houseguests, especially ones that are such snobs and need so many amenities and peace and quiet. Plus, Fudge lives there and Peter's mom knows what could happen.

    But she fixed up Fudge's bedroom for our guests. She put fancy sheets and a brand-new blanket on the hide-a-bed. That's a sofa that opens up into a bed at night. It's in Fudge's room because that used to be our den. (2.3)

    We get a feel here for how small their apartment is. When Fudge came along, they converted the den into a bedroom for him.

    Right after lunch my mother opened up the dinner table. We don't have a separate dining room. When we have company for dinner we eat in one end of the living room. When Mom finished setting setting the table she put a silver bowl filled with flowers right in the middle. (2.10)

    Here's another description of how small their apartment is. But with some ingenuity, Mrs. Hatcher manages to get everything in order—so that it's cozy, comfortable and clean—in time for Mr. and Mrs. Yarbys' visit.

    They were leaving for a hotel as soon as breakfast was over.

    My father said he understood. That the apartment was too small for so many people. My mother didn't say anything. (2.104-105)

    Mr. and Mrs. Yarby don't even last a full 24 hours in the Hatchers' apartment. It's obvious that they're used to a certain degree of luxury and aren't accustomed to kids at all. Mrs. Hatcher knows that it wasn't the size of the apartment that was the real problem. Peter's Dad is just being diplomatic about it.

    We live near Central Park. On nice days I like to play there after school. (4.1)

    What a lucky kid. Peter and his friends have one of the biggest and best parks in the world to use as their after-school playground. The park even has a zoo. They take full advantage of Central Park, and spend nice days out there playing secret agent. When you live in an apartment, it's great to have outdoor spaces to hang out.

    In the fall the leaves turn darker and drop off the trees. Sometimes there are big leaf piles on the ground. It's fun to jump around in them. I never saw bright red, yellow, and orange leaves until the day my father took us for a drive in the country. The reason the leaves don't turn bright colors in New York is the air pollution. (4.10)

    Here's a side of New York City that we wouldn't usually think about, but Peter's really familiar with the effects of air pollution. The book was published in 1972, before many laws were passed to protect the environment. Cities are cleaner now and maybe Central Park trees now have bright fall colors.

    Then the doorbell rang. It was Mrs. Rudder. She lives in the apartment right under us. She wanted to know what was going on. She said it sounded like her ceiling was about to crash in on her any second. (5.65)

    One thing about living in an apartment building is that that other people can hear what the Hatchers are up to. That's certainly the case when Fudge has his birthday party and all the kids start jumping around like maniacs. Some apartment buildings have rules about noise, like you have to have carpeting or cushioned floors to decrease the noise for your neighbors.

    We decided to make my apartment the meeting place because I'm the only one of the three of us who's got his own bedroom. (7.1)

    Because space is limited when you live in an apartment, Peter is lucky to have his own bedroom. Not all apartments in New York are small; it's just super-expensive to live there so most people make do with less space.

    "That's why I need a lock on my door," I said.

    "I don't like locks on doors. We're a family. We don't need to lock each other out." (7.76-77)

    Mrs. Hatcher's opinion about the chain lock is great in theory, but not so great with a little brother who loves to ruin your possessions.

  • Love

    I went into my bedroom. I put Dribble on top of my dresser. I tried to pet him and tell him he would be happy living with me. But it isn't easy to pet a turtle. They aren't soft and furry and they don't lick you or anything. Still, I had my very own pet at last. (1.15)

    Even though Dribble isn't the cuddliest pet in the world, Peter still immediately falls in love with him. He's his first pet, after all. Peter demonstrates his love for Dribble by taking good care of the little guy.

    I guess Fudge could tell I was about ready to kill him because he bent down and kissed me. That's what he does when my mother's angry at him. He thinks nobody can resist him when he makes himself so lovable. And a lot of times it works with my mother. But not with me. (2.97)

    Fudge totally knows when he's reached his limit with people. He tries to patch things up with Peter by giving him a kiss, but Peter's not a sucker like his mom. Fudge seems to be a very affectionate and loving kid. Good thing, too, because otherwise his family would get even more exasperated with him.

    Finally my mother got the brilliant idea of me standing on my head while she fed Fudge. I wasn't very excited about standing on my head in the kitchen. The floor is awfully hard in there. But my mother begged me. She said, "It's very important for Fudge to eat. Please help us, Peter."

    So I stood on my head. (3.8-9)

    Standing on your head to get your brother to eat? We call that love.

    The next morning my mother came into my room and sat down on my bed. I didn't look at her.

    "Peter," she said.

    I didn't answer.

    "Peter, I said some things yesterday that I didn't really mean." (4.100-103)

    Mrs. Hatcher feels awful that she blamed Peter for everything that happened at the playground. She's even more bothered by the fact that he feels unloved. She admits that she made a mistake and makes sure that Peter knows how much she loves him.

    My mother flopped down in a chair. Grandma brought her two aspirins and a glass of water.

    "Here, dear," she said. "Maybe these will help." (5.118)

    Peter's grandma knows exactly how to care for Mrs. Hatcher after Fudge's birthday party. Even moms need their own mother's love sometimes to get them through.

    When I'm done with that I put the rocks back in and fill it with just the right amount of water. After I put Dribble back in his bowl I feed him. Usually he goes right to sleep on his favorite rock. I guess running around in the bathtub really makes my turtle tired. (6.11)

    Peter's attachment and attentiveness to Dribble gives us a hint that he himself has been raised in a loving family and knows what it means to take good care of something. He's not feeling the love when Fudge is terrorizing the household and demanding everyone's attention, but it's totally there under the surface.

    "You don't hate him," my mother said. "You just think you do."

    "Don't tell me," I said. "I mean it. I really can't stand that kid." (7.67-68)

    Mom's right, of course. It's hard for Peter to feel love for Fudge when he's turning his life upside down, but the love comes through when he sees Fudge hurt or sick or missing.

    My father doesn't care about keeping things neat. He never examines me to see if I'm clean. And he lets me stay up late at night.

    On Friday morning all four of us rode down in the elevator to say good-bye to my mother. (8.11-12)

    Peter's dad expresses his love a little differently from his mom. He's not as protective, and it sounds like he's the "fun" parent.

    "Here, Fudge," I called, starting down my aisle. I sounded like I was calling a dog. "Come on out, Fudge."

    When I got down to the first row and called, "Here, Fudge," he popped out at me. (9.45-46)

    Peter talks about how much he hates Fudge, and how he'd like to trade him in for a puppy. But when Fudge actually goes missing, Peter's the first one to scour the movie theater and search for his brother.

    "You see, Peter, your mother and I think you've been a good sport about the whole situation. After all, Dribble was your pet."

    I looked up. Could I be hearing right? Did they really remember about me and Dribble? I put my hand inside the box. I felt something warm and soft and furry. I knew it was a dog, but I pretended to be surprised when he jumped up on my lap and licked me. (10.112-113)

    With the gift of the puppy he's always wanted, Peter's parents show him how much they care, and how they know that he's been through a tough time lately. Peter's showing some love here, too, by pretending to be surprised to please his parents. This is another cool Judy Blume touch that makes the scene feel all the more authentic.