Study Guide

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Love

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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.

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