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.)