Believe it or not, until this week I had never read anything by Judy Blume. Crazy, right? Well last week I walked past one of those ADORABLE free little libraries on someone’s lawn and spotted copies of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge. So now I’ve read them – and, admittedly, when I say them I mean all of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and about ten pages of Superfudge – and while I’m glad I’m getting a blog post out of them they were otherwise not worth it. Essentially, the books are about Peter, the narrator, who is in fourth grade and has a pet turtle and his younger brother Fudge who is three and constantly causing trouble for everyone – particularly Peter – and is basically running wild much to the despair of his family members. I assume Fudge’s antics are intended to be hilarious hijinks and though giving himself an awful haircut or getting lost in a movie theatre is mildly funny mostly it’s just boring and predictable. Considering Blume is still doing book tours I expected a lot more from such a famed children’s author. Oh well, here are my six reasons not to read Judy Blume:
1. Very, very, very short sentences. There’s nothing wrong with being succinct but in this case it makes for remarkably uninteresting prose. Children aren’t stupid and I’m pretty sure they would still understand the book if the sentence structure and vocabulary were slightly more complex. Here’s an example:
“Fudge is going to be three years old. My mother said he should have a birthday party with some of his friends. He plays with three other little kids who live in our building. There’s Jennie, Ralph, and Sam. My mother invited them to Fudge’s birthday party.”
Use some commas, Judy Blume.
2. Fat shaming. I get it, it was the seventies but this is just excessive. Going on for multiple pages about a fat kid who’s only interest in life is food is simply unnecessary. And this isn’t the Dahlian humour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that we all tolerate because, come on, it’s just great. In Judy Blume it’s just tedious fat shaming. Particularly when the fat kid demands a second piece of cake at Fudge’s birthday party, devours it, and then immediately vomits everywhere… because he’s so fat and glutinous and gross. Oh and also the kid’s name is Ralph… hilarious. Not cool, Judy Blume.
3. Gender stereotypes. Yes, yes, it’s the seventies but still. The children’s home life consists of a dad who’s rarely involved in the kids’ lives at all because he works in advertising or something – “…[Daddy] doesn’t know much about taking care of children.” – and an overbearing, overprotective, emotional mother who clearly can’t handle life. The only other notable woman in the novel is the father’s very young and attractive secretary who wears a full face of makeup and has the kids dumped on her by their father the one time he brings them to work with him. All the female children in the book are awful – aka too stupid and useless to successfully complete class projects or babysit, obsessed with cooties, and sometimes they wet themselves. All the male children think the female children are stupid and know that cooties aren’t real and also they never wet themselves. Come on, Judy Blume.
4. Encouraging sibling rivalry. Anytime little brother Fudge is unwilling to behave the adults around him tell him his big brother Peter is soooo much better than him: “…you can’t open your mouth as well as Peter.” Or, “You can’t ride as well as Peter can…” Bad parenting tactics, Judy Blume.
5. SPOILER ALERT! Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing has the weirdest ending you could ever imagine. Now, with a troublesome younger brother it was fairly obvious that SOMETHING was going to happen to the turtle. But – and here’s where Judy Blume absolves herself of being predictable – I didn’t expect Fudge to actually eat the turtle and then be fed copious amounts of laxatives.
“The medicine has finally worked, Peter. All that castor oil and milk of magnesia and prune juice finally worked. The turtle is out!”
“Alive or dead?”
Well the answer was dead so Peter’s parents buy him a dog. The end. What the hell, Judy Blume.
6. There were SO MANY amazing authors writing in the seventies it seems a shame to waste time on the pulp fiction of children’s literature. My top suggestions of children’s novels written in the seventies: The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, Absolute Zero by Helen Cresswell, Bunnicula by James Howe, Abel’s Island by William Steig, and virtually anything by Beverly Cleary or Roald Dahl. So long, Judy Blume.