The Fourth Grade Nothing Turns Forty
I'm a believer in celebrating whatever we can in life but I was floored when Penguin told me it was Fudge's 40th Anniversary. How could it be 40 years? Then I looked at my grown children and remembered that the character of Fudge was originally based on my son Larry when he was a toddler. So much for time flying and all that.
It's been a great 40 years and I can't thank my readers enough for embracing Fudge and my other books and passing them down from generation to generation. I sometimes have to warn parents, if you want your kids to read and love the books you did, don't tell them you loved them. That could be the kiss of death. Eww...my parents are so uncool. Who wants to read the books they read? The secret is in leaving a book or two around the house as if you've no interest in them - and sometimes even saying, I really don't think you're ready for that book. New cover art helps, too, even if no cover art will ever compare to the edition you grew up with. With younger kids it's different. You just start reading to them and with luck you'll be reading a chapter a night.
I never dreamed all those years ago that Fudge would have such a long and happy life. In those days I just dreamed of being published. Who knew Ricky Bobby would one day read from Superfudge to his comatose friend in Talladega Nights? (Wait – comatose?) Who knew when I was in 5th grade cleaning out my pet turtle’s bowl that one day I would hear from kids who have named the family dog Turtle? I identified with Peter, in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, when he brought home his tiny turtle and his mother more or less held her nose, as unhappy to have a turtle in the house as my mother once was.
When I finished Tales… I had no intention of writing about Fudge again. For one thing, series weren't in in the 70's. And I had too many other characters with their own stories rattling around inside my head. So how did I wind up writing five books about Fudge and his family? I could say My readers made me do it! It was years of letters from them asking for another book about Fudge that led to the next book and the ones after that. They’d send me ideas - Fudge grows up and becomes a drug dealer. (Uh, no, I don’t think so.) Peter puts Fudge in the dryer and turns it to high. (Definitely not.)
But we wouldn’t be celebrating at all if it hadn’t been for Ann Durell at E.P. Dutton who saw promise in a picture book I submitted 40 years ago based on a story I’d read in the paper about a real toddler who’d swallowed a pet turtle. She suggested I turn that story into a chapter book. Big thanks to Ann, always. And big thanks to my readers for their incredible loyalty. I write because I can't not write -- but the pleasure comes from sharing what I write with you.
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