Trapped in Time: Tales of a Fourth Grade Something by Deb Mia

You’re probably figuring out by now that fourth grade was quite an eventful year for me. Full of hope and angst. Drama. Which is exactly why Judy Blume wrote that all-time classic, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

Tales of a Sixth Grade Nothing doesn’t quite work. Nor does Tales of a Third Grade Nothing. No, there is something timeless about fourth grade, and she so eloquently captures it in her book. Which is probably why my short list of favorite books include pretty much every title by Judy Blume: all the subsequent Fudge and Sheila the Great books, Freckle Juice, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, and so on.

Next in line: The Great Brain books by John D. Fitzgerald. The best. With actual plots. And unsolved mysteries. With illustrations by Mercer Mayer. Fabulous.

Roald Dahl. His short stories, mostly, my favorite being The Boy Who Talked to Animals. But of course there’s the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Oddly enough, I never read James and the Giant Peach.

Beverly Clearly. Love Beezus and Ramona. And every book they and Henry Huggins appeared in. My favorite line yet, “Jesus, Beezus!” I was both shocked and thrilled to read that in print. I’m surprised it hasn’t made the banned book list.

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective. The whole series. As in, why didn’t author Donald Sobol keep writing them? Encyclopedia is just so clever!

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert O’Brien.

Childhood seemed to end when I got my hands on three books that left an imprint on my brain forever: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous, Animal Farm by George Orwell, and Watership Down by Richard Adams. I was 11 or 12. Talk about an initiation into young adulthood. But it opened my eyes, too, to good writing, complex characters, and complex choices.

Which is probably why I read and re-read children’s books at the drop of a hat. It’s what made me want to be a writer, so reading my favorite children books, especially if I have writer’s block, helps me start fresh again. Innocent inspiration. Good, clean fun with only the traumatic backdrop of fourth grade gym to mar it …

10 Replies to “Trapped in Time: Tales of a Fourth Grade Something by Deb Mia”

  1. I loved Watership Down and Animal Farm, as well. They do initiate one into the realm of adulthood. Also, The Red Pony by Steinbeck did that for me and To Kill a Mockingbird. Two books with child protagonists, but adult themes. Somehow we precocious readers get hold of them and could no longer go back to reading the kid stuff! When I read Lord of the Flies shortly thereafter, my eyes really sprang open. I bought it recently to reread, but haven’t got around to it. Maybe it’s a good thing to remember it as I did at twelve!

  2. What I like knowing is that childrens’ book are your source of inspiration, Mia. And that makes sense, doesn’t it, because the stories and their charcters are basically unforgettable.

  3. Ooh, Lord of the Flies. Another intense favorite. I think I’ll pass on The Stranger, Amy – the title alone is freaking me out!

    It’s interesting how some of my favorite characters are actually animals. Which would probably explain why Babe is one of my favorite movies …

  4. Ooh… I’d forgotten all about A Wrinkle in Time. I loved that book!

    The first real adult book I read was To Kill a Mockingbird. I still remember where I was the first time I finished it — sitting at the dining room table. I closed the book and just sat there, stunned, and heartbroken that it was over. This is the book I go back to again and again and each time I think I take something new away from it.

  5. Or how about Witches by Dahl? Could there be anything more disturbing as a fourth grader than picturing bald heads and sqaure toes? Here’s an idea: a new book club based on a fourth grade reading list. Now there’s one I would sign up for in a heartbeat! 🙂

  6. God, you guys are making me remember all these great books! Moms out there, tell me, are these books still on the shelves in bookstores? Oh, I hope so. I did so love them all. And Maia, I did reread Lord of the Flies recently, and I thought it held up well.

    And love the idea of the book club, Ali! 🙂

  7. Oh, Ramona! I remember her! And the Dahl books — well, with those, I mostly remember the impact they had on my eating. Like, I loved to make chocolate pudding and sip it before it solidified and pretend that I was drinking from the chocolate lake in Charlie. And I always loved eating peaches — never had they seemed as delicious as they did then — when I read James and the Giant Peach.

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