Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

I've been reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to N at bedtime.  I hadn't read it since I was in 2nd grade, and am pleased that it's almost as good as I remember (although the mother is pretty annoying).  But I had realized how much it would be a guide to the changes in parenting practice since it was written (1972).

  • Peter (age 9) gets to go to Central Park without an adult, as long as he's with another kid. 
  • But not because it's safer than today — Peter says his friend has been mugged three times, and he assumes he'll get mugged someday too.
  • Three fourth graders are left alone in charge of a 2 1/2 year old.
  • The reason Mrs. Hatcher goes back to the apartment is that she realizes that she forgot to turn the oven ON. 
  • At Fudge's 3rd birthday party, the other kids are all dropped off and their parents leave — even though one kid is a known biter and another is terrified.

It looks like all of the Judy Blume books are still in print.  I remember reading a few years ago that she had updated Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret to update the references to sanitary napkins with belts (which were dated when I read it 30 years ago).  I don't know if she made changes to any of the other books.

What children's book of the past decade do you think our kids will be reading to their kids 37 years from now?  And what in them will seem most dated?

8 Responses to “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”

  1. Lee Says:

    I don’t know enough about the current books to comment. I’ve read all of the Ramona books to my kindergartener and it’s been fun to compare how times have changed with her, ex. kids walking to school by themselves, the older sibling being in charge of the younger. I was amused by how Mr. Hatcher becomes liberated between Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Fudge.

  2. Laura/Geekymom Says:

    The only thing in your list that is still true around here is that people do drop their kids off at parties and leave them. In the area where we were before, which was much more affluent, this didn’t happen.
    Our kids will definitely be reading the Harry Potter books (though those qualify as young adult books). My daughter says Little House on the Prairie books and Dr. Seuss books. I read those to her, so I think that must have something to do with it. I’ll be interested in seeing what other people say.

  3. merseydotes Says:

    I think the Harry Potter series will be one for the ages. It is already dated in the sense that there are no cell phones and no internet mentioned (not even in the Muggle world) because it is set in the early 90s, but I think it will endure. The movies will help that along, too.
    As a kid, I read the same Frances Hodgson Burnett books my mom read growing up, but I had little interest in her complete works of Nancy Drew. I much preferred Judy Blume, The Babysitters Club series and – eventually – Sweet Valley High books.
    I haven’t read the Lemony Snickett series, but I look forward to it. From what I hear, those may have some longevity too.

  4. dave.s. Says:

    I’m going to guess that the tween fiction with everyone dealing with some trendy setback (parents divorce, this one is gay, that one is discriminated against for race) will look sort of quaint. I’ve had a hell of a time selling Hobbit and Tom Sawyer to my kids, this surprised me as I thought they were for the ages. Charlotte’s Web charmed my daughter, even though there are a lot of anachronisms. My wife is reading E Nesbit books to the kids right now, with good success. Good Night Moon will be forever.

  5. Sandy D. Says:

    I think Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” will be read in 37 years (and not just because it won the Newbery). I don’t think it will be particularly dated, either – like a lot of fantasy, it’s somewhat timeless.

  6. Zinemama Says:

    Sandy, I agree. Just finished “The Graveyard Book” and holy moly! I’m sorry to say that I think Harry Potter will be with us for the long haul. But if the kids like it, so be it.
    Now, in terms of classics that I’ve read to my own children, I have little doubt that they’ll be reading the “Swallows and Amazons” series to their own kids. My boys have latched onto those books like I never imagined they would.

  7. Jennifer Says:

    I loved anachronisms as a child/tween — I mean, I loved reading about how other people in other times had done things. I read all the Little House books, Charlotte’s Web, the Ramona books, Nancy Drew … they all contained references I didn’t understand, but that never bothered me. Hm. I find it odd that Judy Blume updated her books (unless it was purely a marketing ploy).
    I just read ‘Superfudge’ to my 7yo and he thought it was hilarious. He is STILL saying, “Bonjour, stupid!”
    I haven’t read Harry Potter (gasp!) nor any new children’s fiction — excluding pictures books, of course. If you meant to include picture books: I think Mo Willems will have a special place in my kids’ hearts.

  8. landismom Says:

    Hmm, hard to figure this one out. There is a whole host of tweener lit that the Bee is into now that I haven’t bothered reading. The Judy Moody books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the Amber Brown series, Amazing Abby Hayes, etc. I think of that being somewhat comparable to the Judy Blume’s–though she reads those too. She’s also into the Little House books and some other old school stuff.

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