In 1972, Farley Drexel Hatcher, more commonly known as Fudge, burst onto the pages of Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and nothing has been able to contain him since, much to the chagrin of his older brother, Peter. Blume's hysterical four book series of older sibling woes is told from Peter's point of view, but the action and three of the books' titles revolve around Fudge, who can turn the most mundane activities, like shoe shopping and a subway ride, into an adventure -- or a disaster, according to Peter.
As a toddler, Fudge loses his front teeth while attempting to fly like a bird, stars in a television commercial, and swallows Peter's pet turtle, Dribble. A few years later, he covers baby sister Tootsie in green stamps, proposes to Sheila Tubman, Peter's arch-nemesis and possibly secret crush, and makes plans to become a money-grubbing miser when he grows up. Even worse, at least from Peter's perspective, Fudge acquires an entourage: an assortment of quirky friends, a myna bird named Uncle Feather who greets people with a friendly "Bonjour, stupid," and a younger cousin who shares both Fudge's name and penchant for trouble.
In the midst of all of the chaos that Fudge creates, however, he never stops trying to imitate or impress his big brother. And, convinced as Peter remains that no brother -- or family, for that matter -- could be more embarrassing than his own, he finds better ways of coping with his feelings about Fudge as the series progresses. (Plus, with each book, more zany relatives and friends are introduced, perhaps helping Peter to realize that, even if he did run away from home, he probably would not be running towards greater normalcy elsewhere.)
In the end, it is a good thing that Peter sticks around because he and Fudge would be incomplete without each other. Certainly, Fudge's outlandish antics and unending questions would not be nearly as funny without Peter's commentary on them. Izzy, the library assistant, tells Fudge that he should write his own story, asking '"[w]ho knows more about a Fudge or a Farley than you?"' (Fudge-A-Mania 75). This may be true, but until Fudge does tell his own story, Peter -- and Judy Blume -- certainly share enough about him -- and themselves -- to keep us all laughing for at least another 35 years.
Blume, Judy. Fudge-A-Mania. New York: Dell Publishing, 1990.
Copyright 2007© Ramona Caponegro
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Monday, 16-Jul-2007 20:12:48 EDT