Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Summary
Meet Peter Hatcher, a fourth grader who has just won a pet turtle named Dribble at a birthday party. He takes the turtle home and keeps it in his bedroom, telling his little brother Fudge not to touch it ever without Peter's permission. Fudge just laughs.
That's the fateful beginning of Peter's adventures with his little bro-nado. The book is Peter's take on various exasperating situations with Fudge, who in one way or another causes trouble for everybody in the family.
Fudge is such a handful that Peter gets dragged into helping his mom take care of him. There's the time that Fudge won't eat unless his family treats him like a dog and puts his food on the floor. Peter's mom tries everything to coax Fudge into eating by asking Peter to stand on his head so that Fudge will laugh and she can shove spoonfuls of food into his mouth.
Another time, Peter and his friend Jimmy are at Central Park with Sheila, a girl from their class. Peter's mom asks them to watch Fudge, and while they're distracted, Fudge climbs to the top of the jungle gym and jumps off, falling flat on his face. Peter also has to help out with Fudge's third birthday party, where Mrs. Hatcher and Peter realize just how terrible it is to have a whole apartment full of three-year-old kids on their hands. They all cause a ruckus, crying and fighting, and everyone's happy to see them go at the end of the day.
When Fudge goes to the dentist, Peter's dragged along, too, so he can convince his brother to open up his mouth and behave. Ditto when they have to go buy shoes. Then, when Peter works with Jimmy and Sheila on a weeks-long school project, Fudge sneaks into his room and scribbles all over the poster. Peter's furious that he has to start over from scratch, and his father recognizes that it's time he gets some privacy. He installs a chain-lock on Peter's bedroom door.
Peter saves the worst story for last. He goes into his room one day to find that the chain-lock is undone, and that his pet turtle, Dribble, is missing from his bowl. When he interrogates Fudge about the missing turtle, his brother proudly states that he swallowed Dribble. Poor Peter is freaked out and runs to his mother, but she seems more worried about Fudge than the fact that Peter's lost his pet turtle.
Peter's worried about Fudge, too, but he's heartbroken when he learns that even though the doctors are able to get Fudge to spit up Dribble, the little turtle didn't make it. Peter's mad that his parents are fussing over Fudge in the hospital, bringing him lots of presents and treats, even though Peter is the one who's lost his only pet. Now Peter's totally convinced that his parents care way more about Fudge than about their well-behaved, helpful, responsible older son.
The stories begin with Peter getting Dribble and end with him losing his beloved pet. There's a happy ending to this sad tale, though. Mr. and Mrs. Hatcher tell Peter that they're really proud of him for being so grown-up and understanding about the whole fiasco. They have a big surprise for him: a pet puppy. Peter decides to name the puppy Turtle in honor of poor Dribble.
(We'd take a puppy over a turtle any day. Just saying.)
The Big Winner
- Peter Hatcher (the narrator) crushes it at a jellybean number guessing game at his friend Jimmy Fargo's birthday party, and consequently wins a pet turtle that he names Dribble.
- He walks home to his apartment, and immediately shows off his turtle to his mother. Unfortunately, she's not so impressed and just says that the turtle smells bad. Classic mom move.
- Peter assures her that he'll take care of Dribble, and make sure that he's fed, clean, and happy. Then he scrubs his hands before dinner, after his mother complains that she can still smell turtle on him.
- As nitpicky as his mother is, though, she's not Peter's biggest problem. Neither is his father, who makes commercials for a living.
- No, Peter's biggest issue is his little brother: a spunky (that's an understatement) two-and-a-half year old whose real name is Farley Drexel, but who everyone calls "Fudge." He can't stand his real name.
- Fudge doesn't understand personal boundaries, and he's always in the way. Peter totally knows as soon as Fudge shows up that he's going to try to mess with Dribble the turtle.
- When Peter tells him not to touch the turtle, Fudge laughs and laughs. That's never a good sign.
Mr. and Mrs. Juicy-O
- Peter's dad comes home thrilled one day because Mr. Yarby—the president of Juicy-O, a company that Peter's dad made a commercial for—and his wife are coming to New York City.
- For some reason, Peter's dad has invited them to stay at their house. This completely baffles Peter's mom, who thinks that they should stay in a hotel.
- Nonetheless, she fixes up Fudge's room for them, and puts new sheets on the futon. Then she moves Fudge's crib into Peter's room. Great.
- Peter's not stoked because his brother makes slurping noises and talks in his sleep. Peter offers to sleep in the living room instead, but his parents say that he has to stay in his room.
- His mother is pretty stressed out getting ready for their guests, so Peter goes to Jimmy Fargo's place to hang out.
- When he gets back, though, his mom is even more stressed out—she claims that two flowers are missing from the dinner table setting.
- Peter says he didn't take them, and they look at Fudge, who appears to be chewing on something. When their mom forces Fudge's mouth open, they find that he's eating the flowers. Gross.
- Peter's mom has to go through the whole hassle of calling the doctor and giving Fudge some medicine for an upset stomach.
- Before dinner, Fudge gets fed and is reminded that he has to be a good boy for their company. Peter's all excited because he gets to eat with the grown-ups, since he's nine years old.
- When the Yarbys get there, Mrs. Yarby immediately starts fussing over Fudge, who she refers to as a baby. She even gives him a cool toy train that makes lots of noise.
- She gives Peter a picture dictionary, which he's obviously too old for. But he thanks her anyway, and says that it's what he's always wanted.
- Then Peter's dad comes in and asks if he can get everyone a drink. Mr. and Mrs. Yarby are totally weird about it and demand Juicy-O. Apparently, that's all they ever drink.
- Fudge goes into his room and comes back with Peter's old picture dictionary, which makes Mrs. Yarby feel insulted because she got him something that he already has. How awkward.
- Peter tries to make Mrs. Yarby feel better by saying that his old one was falling apart and he needed a new one.
- That's when their parents decide that it's time for Fudge to go to bed, and they put him in his crib even though they all know that he's big enough to climb out at anytime.
- In the middle of dinner, Fudge decides to do just that and shows up carrying Dribble's bowl, which freaks Mrs. Yarby out. She screams and says that she hates reptiles.
- Peter snatches the turtle back and takes him into his room to inspect. He looks like he's OK.
- Fudge gets carted off to bed again, and Mr. Yarby snidely insinuates that the Hatcher children don't have any manners.
- Then at dessert, Fudge comes running out again wearing a gorilla mask, which makes Mrs. Yarby scream, and causes Mrs. Hatcher to accidentally spill coffee. This visit is turning out to be a major disaster.
- Peter goes to sleep late, and he wakes up in the middle of the night to find Fudge standing over him and Dribble crawling up his arm.
- He jumps up, grabs Dribble, and smacks Fudge. Their father comes running in and takes Fudge back to sleep with them so Peter can get some rest.
- An hour later, Fudge wakes everyone in the apartment by playing with his noisy new toy train.
- Everyone's super quiet at breakfast, and the Yarbys announce that they're leaving to go stay at a hotel instead.
- When they go to grab their suitcase, Mr. Yarby hollers because it's covered in green stamps; Fudge has spent some time decorating it.
- After that, the Yarbys leave and Mr. Hatcher loses the Juicy-O account. Everyone in the family can finally admit that they never really liked drinking Juicy-O anyway.
The Family Dog
- Mr. Hatcher's next big project is the new commercial for Toddle-Bike.
- At the same time, Peter has also perfected the art of standing on his head, which is super impressive to his family, especially Fudge.
- Fudge has decided to stop eating, which worries their parents. The only thing that works is having Peter stand on his head. This makes Fudge laugh, and their mother can quickly stuff some food in his mouth.
- Next, Fudge decides to pretend to be a dog while they're all eating dinner. Their mother says that if he's a dog, he'll eat his food on the ground.
- She fixes up a plate and puts it on the ground, then pets him like he's a real life dog. It's a weird tactic, but it works and Fudge takes two bites of his dinner.
- Fudge continues to eat underneath the table for the next week. Their grandma comes over with some new ideas for Fudge to eat like a normal human being.
- She makes him a milkshake and tells him that if he drinks it all, there'll be a surprise at the bottom. When Fudge drinks it and finds that there's nothing at the bottom, he throws a tantrum. Grandma ends up leaving.
- Mrs. Hatcher drags Fudge from doctor to doctor, but they all tell her the same thing: Just let him get hungry. If he's hungry enough, he'll eat.
- Things come to a head one night when their mother cooks a special meal of lamb chops just for Fudge while everyone else gets stew. Unfair.
- Fudge refuses to eat the lamb chops and demands corn flakes instead, which is totally okay with Peter because he gets to eat the yummy dinner.
- Then after his mother makes him a bowl of cereal, Fudge again throws a tantrum and refuses to eat.
- Well, at that point, their father has had it. He tells Fudge that if he won't eat his dinner, then he'll certainly wear it.
- Fudge calls his bluff, and so their father carries him into the bathroom, places him in the tub, and dumps the bowl of cereal over him.
- Dad returns to the dinner table while Fudge sits in the bathroom, crying and wailing. No one goes to comfort him for a change.
- Amazingly enough, this works. (Actually it's not so amazing, just parental common sense.)
- The next day, Fudge is back in his booster chair and eating food like a normal kid.
My Brother the Bird
- The Hatchers live near Central Park, but Peter's only allowed to play there without parental supervision if his friends are going to be there, too.
- After all, his friend Jimmy Fargo has already been mugged three times. He even had to go to the police station to look at mug shots, which Peter thinks is pretty cool.
- Even Mr. Hatcher has been mugged in the subway, which is why Mrs. Hatcher doesn't take the subway anymore.
- Because the Hatchers live on the west side of the park, they have to walk all the way across and over to the east side if they want to go to the zoo or see the pony carts, which is what Fudge loves.
- And on Sundays, the park is closed to traffic, which means that Fudge can ride his Toddle-Bike around and make motorcycle noises.
- One sunny afternoon, Peter and Jimmy Fargo go to the park together. They're the only kids from school who live on the same block, except for Sheila.
- Sheila lives in Peter's building, but he's not about to be friends with her because she's a girl. Maybe she's got cooties.
- Peter's mother is always going on and on about how smart Sheila is, and how she's going to be a real beauty someday. This is crazy talk to Peter, who doesn't think that Sheila is beautiful at all.
- Peter and Jimmy typically play on some rocks in Central Park, but when they get there, Sheila's already sitting on a rock and reading a book.
- To make matters worse, Fudge comes tearing down the path chasing some pigeons, with their mother a little way behind him.
- Their mother says that she can't deal with Fudge right now, and Sheila offers to watch him for a while.
- Mrs. Hatcher asks if Sheila can just keep an eye on Fudge for ten minutes while she runs back home to turn on the oven. No big deal, right?
- Peter and Jimmy get roped into watching Fudge too, and they all head over to the playground together.
- The kids are all messing around while Fudge climbs up to the top of the jungle gym. Then he calls down to them and says he's a bird, flapping his wings.
- Peter runs toward him, but it's too late—Fudge has already jumped. He lands on the ground and starts crying and bleeding all over the place.
- Sheila starts crying because she's afraid that she'll get in trouble (since she was in charge of babysitting Fudge), and Jimmy notices that Fudge's two top teeth are missing.
- While Peter tries to clean up Fudge, Sheila searches on the ground for his missing teeth, and Jimmy runs back to the apartment to get help.
- Mrs. Hatcher gets there and tells Sheila that it's not her fault. But as they're walking home, she yells at Peter and tells him that she's disappointed in him; this is all his fault. How unfair is that?
- That night, Peter's so angry that he doesn't eat much of his dinner and has a hard time falling asleep.
- He's pretty sure that his mother cares way more about Fudge than she cares about him.
- The next morning, Peter's mom comes into his room and apologizes for taking her frustration out on him, and says that the whole accident would have probably happened even if she was there.
- Then Peter tells his mother that Fudge jumped because he thought he was a bird, and they both can't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.
The Birthday Bash
- The dentist says that Fudge will have a gap in his teeth until his adult teeth come in—which won't be until he's six or seven. In the meantime, Peter keeps calling him Fang.
- Fudge's third birthday is coming up, which means that they're going to throw a little party for him and invite his friends from the building: Jennie, Ralph, and Sam.
- Their grandmother comes over to help too, but their father's too busy with a business appointment and says that he won't be able to make it.
- When their grandmother tries to get Fudge to wear a suit for the party, he completely loses it and starts screaming.
- In the end, they get him in his suit, but he's still wearing his bedroom slippers. You win some, you lose some.
- When the three kids show up, we learn that Ralph is a chubby kid who eats everything, Jennie is a biter (she actually bites people), and Sam cries constantly. Just your basic three-year-old birthday party.
- When the party's well underway, their grandmother turns off the lights and starts singing "Happy Birthday" while carrying out a chocolate cake with yellow roses made of frosting.
- Sam starts crying because it's dark, and after Fudge blows out the candles, he snatches some of the frosting roses off of the cake and eats them right there.
- Ralph starts eating the roses off of the cake too, and so when the cake is finally sliced up and distributed, not everyone has a rose on their slice. This upsets Jennie so much that she chomps down on Peter and Fudge's grandmother.
- Ralph demands a second piece of cake, and then promptly throws it up. This party is getting out of control.
- It becomes even more of a fiasco during the gift-opening portion of the event. Ralph gives Fudge a toy car, and then demands it back. He doesn't get the idea of gift-giving at all.
- Sam gives Fudge a book, which he simply throws off to the side. This, of course, makes Sam burst into tears because his feelings are hurt.
- There's still an hour to go in the party, and so Peter grabs a bunch of balloons and they put on music so the kids can dance. Apparently, that's what three-year-olds are into.
- But while the kids are stomping around, their neighbor from the floor below knocks on the door and demands to know what's going on because there's so much thumping on her ceiling.
- Grandma invites her in for a slice of cake, and the kids go into Fudge's room and start jumping up and down on his brand new big-boy's bed.
- Mrs. Hatcher's at her wit's end, so she finally convinces the kids to settle down and listen while she tells them a story.
- She mentions something about Dribble, and then all the kids scream for Peter to show them his pet turtle.
- Jennie asks him if his turtle pees, and when he says that yeah, Dribble probably does, she pees right there on the carpet.
- Not a moment too soon, Ralph's, Jennie's, and Sam's parents all come to pick them up and take them away. Peter's mom settles down with a glass of water and some aspirin.
- When Peter and Fudge's dad comes home and asks them how the party went, they can all only laugh.
Fang Hits Town
- Fudge loves his new bed, but he falls out of it every night. Plus, his parents find him asleep in a chair every morning because he moves during the night.
- One Saturday, Peter wants to go to the movies with Jimmy, but his mother insists that he come along with her when she takes Fudge to the dentist. She says that they'll make a whole day out of it and go to lunch and to buy new shoes for the boys.
- Every Saturday, Peter also cleans out Dribble's bowl. He lets the turtle crawl around in the tub while he washes the rocks and refills the bowl with clean water. Sometimes, he even lets Fudge watch.
- When they all get to the dentist, Peter and his mother stay in the waiting room and read magazines while Fudge goes into the dentist's office.
- But after a while, a nurse comes out and asks Peter to come back there and help the dentist. What in the world could Peter possibly do to help?
- It turns out that Fudge is refusing to open his mouth. The dentist praises Peter for his ability to open his mouth nice and wide, and Fudge starts paying attention.
- He opens his mouth to show that he can be just as good as Peter, and the dentist quickly counts all his teeth and checks them out.
- Their mother takes them to Bloomingdale's to buy new shoes. When Peter takes off his shoes to get measured, his mother sees that he has a hole in his sock and is super embarrassed. She's worried that people will think she's a bad mother.
- He gets brown loafers, and the salesperson brings out brown and white saddle shoes for Fudge. Fudge throws a fit and says that he wants shoes just like Peter's, which is impossible, because they don't come in his size.
- Their mother decides to pretend that Peter is getting saddle shoes too, then actually buy the loafers for him and the saddle shoes for Fudge. Tricky mom.
- Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
- They go to Hamburger Heaven for lunch, and Fudge behaves terribly as usual, eating his food with his fingers, yelling, and even dumping a bunch of peas onto his head.
- On the way home, their mother asks Peter if spending the day with Fudge was all that bad. Peter secretly thinks to himself that he never wants to hang out with Fudge again.
- Oh, well. A mom can always hope.
The Flying Train Committee
- At school, Peter's teacher assigns a project about the city and puts them all into "committees." Peter's partnered up with Jimmy Fargo (yay) and Sheila (boo) and they're assigned the topic of "Transportation."
- Sheila thinks that she's smarter than everyone else, so she immediately takes the wheel and says that she'll be in charge of their booklet. Peter and Jimmy can work on the poster.
- Their committee goes to the library and checks out all sorts of books on transportation, and agree that they'll meet every Tuesday and Thursday for the next few weeks.
- In one meeting, Peter tells Jimmy and Sheila that all of New York City's traffic problems would be solved if they just outlawed cars, buses, and taxis and instead built a huge monorail system.
- Sheila thinks this is a stupid, impractical idea, but she says that Peter can write his five pages of the project on the monorail. Jimmy will write five pages about pollution, and she'll write ten pages on the history of transportation in the city.
- She also tells them that they need to get her their portions of the report early so that she can copy it all over in her handwriting, since they should have a single consistent document.
- When Sheila starts nitpicking on the boys' poster, they get mad and tell her that being on a committee doesn't mean that she can just boss them around. That shuts her up, but Sheila just grabs her stuff and leaves in a huff.
- One day though, Fudge sneaks into Peter's room and scribbles all over the poster that he and Jimmy have spent weeks working on. It's ruined.
- Peter completely loses it and starts crying and accusing his mother of loving Fudge more than she loves him.
- He also asks for a lock on his door, but his mother says that it's not necessary, and that Fudge won't ruin his homework again. Fat chance.
- Jimmy's incredibly understanding about having to put together the entire poster again, and Sheila doesn't mention it.
- When the project's all done, the boys get mad at Sheila because she writes on the booklet that she hand-wrote the whole thing.
- She takes off her name so that it's all fair, and Peter shows his parents the brand-spanking new poster, which looks pretty spiffy.
- At the end of the day, Peter goes into his room to relax and finds Fudge sitting on the floor with Dribble's bowl, cutting his own hair.
- Peter snatches Dribble away and cleans out all the hair, and their mom takes Fudge to get a real haircut at the barbershop.
- Peter's dad comes home and installs a chain-lock on his door. Hallelujah. Now he can keep Fudge's pesky hands away from his stuff.
- The presentation at school goes off without a hitch, except when their teacher asks them why exactly they have a flying train on the poster, which is exactly what bossy Sheila pointed out when Peter and Jimmy drew a train without the ground underneath it.
- Maybe Sheila is right about some things after all.
The TV Star
- Peter's Aunt Linda (his mom's sister) gives birth to a new baby girl, and so Mrs. Hatcher decides to fly off to Boston for the weekend to visit them.
- She's worried about leaving Fudge at home, but Peter assures her that he and his dad can handle it. It's only a weekend, after all. What's the worst that could happen?
- On Friday, Peter doesn't go to school, so his father takes both of the boys into the office with him, and introduces them to his secretary, Janet. She's supposed to babysit them while Mr. Hatcher's in meetings.
- The boys hang out with Janet, and Peter's curious to know why a bunch of kids are in the building, too. She tells them that those are the kids who are here to audition for the Toddle-Bike commercial.
- The president of Toddle-Bike, Mr. Vincent, keeps turning away all the child actors. He's super picky.
- But then he spots Fudge and decides that he's the perfect kid for the Toddle-Bike commercial, even though Fudge isn't even there to audition.
- Mr. Vincent even says that if Fudge isn't the kid in the commercial, he'll take his account to another advertising firm. Poor Mr. Hatcher can't afford to lose his business.
- Peter's pretty jealous that Fudge is getting so much attention; what has that kid ever done to deserve to be on a commercial? It just isn't fair.
- Of course, when the shooting actually starts, Fudge refuses to actually ride the bike, which makes Mr. Vincent threaten to take away the account yet again.
- But Peter comes up with an idea to save the day. He gets on the Toddle-Bike and rides it around, and gets everyone else to say that there's no way that Fudge can ride as well as Peter does.
- It totally works. Fudge says that he can ride just as well as his brother, and gets on the bike and finishes the commercial.
- Janet tells Peter that he's saved the day and kisses him on the cheek, which he secretly wipes off later.
Just Another Rainy Day
- The next day, their father decides to take the boys to the movies. Peter's skeptical because Fudge is awfully young and might not do well at the movies, but Mr. Hatcher finds a kids' film playing called A Bear's Life.
- Fudge is looking a bit worse for the wear since their mother left, since his father hasn't even had him change his clothes. Peter helps Mr. Hatcher get Fudge cleaned up, and off they go to the movies.
- Because it's raining, Fudge's pants get all wet before he even gets to the movie theater. Mr. Hatcher has to buy him some popcorn and he stuffs paper towels up Fudge's pant legs so he doesn't complain.
- This isn't starting off well at all.
- When the movie actually starts, Fudge starts talking, which Peter immediately tells him that he can't do. Needing something else to entertain himself, Fudge starts throwing popcorn at the people in front of him.
- As if things couldn't get any worse, Peter turns to his father to talk about the popcorn throwing, and when he turns back, Fudge is gone.
- They have to disrupt the whole movie to look for Fudge and make an announcement that a three-year-old boy named Fudge is missing.
- Peter walks down the aisles calling for Fudge, and finally finds his brother up at the front row, trying to touch the bears in the movie. He obviously doesn't get how movies work.
- After they find Fudge, they watch the rest of the movie, even though Peter's still pretty mortified by the whole episode. He's never going to take Fudge to the movies again.
- When they get home, their dad tries to explain that movies are like TV, and then tells the boys that he's making them an omelet for dinner. This is really weird, because their dad isn't exactly big on cooking.
- He makes a huge omelet, using all twelve eggs. When he brings it out, Fudge takes a bite and says that it's good. But when Mr. Hatcher tries it, he admits that it's absolutely disgusting.
- Fudge starts yelling at him to either eat it or wear it (which is what his dad told him when he wouldn't eat), and flings some of the omelette at his dad.
- Touché, Mr. Hatcher. Fudge is a pretty quick learner.
- The next day, they all drive to the airport to pick up their mother, and Mr. Hatcher makes Peter promise not to tell anything about the disastrous weekend.
- Six weeks later, they're all watching TV when the commercial for Toddle-Bikes come on and Fudge is in it.
- That's when they all break down and tell her about all the things that happened during the long weekend that she went to visit Aunt Linda, and they all can't help but laugh about it.
- Friday, May 10 starts out as just a normal day. Peter goes to school and makes plans to meet up with Jimmy in Central Park.
- But when he gets home, he finds that the latch on his door is unlocked. Someone has been in his room and Dribble is missing from his bowl.
- Peter interrogates Fudge, who immediately grins and tells him that he ate Dribble.
- Wait, what?
- Peter goes to his mom and demands to know how she could ever let Fudge eat his pet turtle.
- At first she doesn't believe Fudge, but he continues to insist that he swallowed the turtle whole.
- Their mom completely panics.
- She calls an ambulance and they ride with Fudge to the doctor's office, where Dr. Cone takes some X-rays of Fudge and confirms that yep, the kid swallowed a turtle.
- When Peter asks the doctor if he'll get his turtle back and if Dribble will be okay, the doctor doesn't answer. That's when he knows that poor Dribble is a goner.
- Peter goes home, miserable and lonely, and feels like no one else cares about the fact that he lost his turtle. Everyone is more concerned with Fudge's health even though he's the one who did something very wrong.
- When Fudge finally is released from the hospital, he comes home and everyone showers him with attention and gifts. Peter's completely disgusted.
- Then his dad comes in with a big box and tells Peter that they're so proud of him for being a good sport even though Fudge ate his pet turtle.
- He looks inside, and there's a puppy just for him. He decides to name it Turtle, to remind him of Dribble.
- End of story.