Study Guide

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Family

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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.

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