There's probably no better way to celebrate the 30th birthday of the hero of Judy Blume's now-classic Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, first published in 1972, than the publication of a new Fudge book. And, thankfully for Fudge fans, the irrepressible 5-year-old hasn't aged at all in this new celebration of family life, Double Fudge.

Double Fudge is the first Fudge book Judy Blume has written in 12 years. She based the original character of Fudge on the antics of her son, Larry. Now, at the urging of Larry's 11-year-old son, Elliot, as well as thousands of fan letters, grandmother Judy Blume has given a new generation of young readers another warm and funny book to treasure.

In fact, Blume's grandson is the inspiration for the new adventure, in which Fudge (Farley Drexel Hatcher to be precise) is driving his older brother, Peter, and the rest of his family crazy due to his obsession with money.

Blume got the idea from young Elliot. When he was small he believed that all you had to do to get money was put a card into a machine and money would come pouring out, says the author, whose books have been translated into 26 languages.

Of course, Fudge never does anything halfway. First, he skips down the stairs singing, Money, money, money . . . I love money, money, money . . . Next, he demands to be paid one dollar to pass the saltshaker at the dinner table. Then he decides he wants to make his own money, Fudge Bucks. I'm going to make a hundred million trillion of them, Fudge tells his family. Soon I'll have enough Fudge Bucks to buy the whole world. Clearly, Fudge's obsession is getting out of hand. His older brother, Peter, finds it embarrassing. He convinces his parents they simply have to do something. But Peter's not entirely sure their idea is a good one: The family travels to Washington, D.C., to tour the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to show Fudge how real money is made.

While there, the Hatchers have an unexpected reunion with their long-lost relatives, the Howie Hatchers of Honolulu, Hawaii. Now Peter not only has Fudge to deal with, but twin cousins named Flora and Fauna, plus a 4-year-old mini Fudge, also named Farley Drexel! In Double Fudge, Judy Blume shows her extraordinary ability to create timeless and appealing characters and humorous family situations. Unlike J.K. Rowling, who always intended the Harry Potter books to be a series, Blume didn't start out to write a series about the Hatcher family.

In fact, after writing Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Blume didn't expect to write about any of the characters again. But, says the author, Over the years I received thousands of letters from children begging for another Fudge book. Eventually I decided that if I got the right idea I'd give it a try. Then one day when I was in the shower an idea popped into my head. (The shower is a good place for ideas!) That particular time, the idea was to give the Hatchers a new baby, and Tootsie and the book Superfudge were born. After that came Fudge-a-Mania, which was inspired by a real family vacation in Maine.

In addition to the Fudge books, Judy Blume is the author of such children's classics as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, as well as Blubber and Forever. She has also written three best-selling adult novels.

Decade after decade, readers are attracted to Blume's warm voice and understanding of childhood issues. In 1996, Blume was honored by the American Library Association with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. And it's no surprise that, with 75 million copies of her books in print, she still receives thousands of letters each month.

Who knows, maybe one of those letters will inspire this amazing writer to give her readers one more story about Farley Drexel Hatcher! Deborah Hopkinson writes from Walla Walla, Washington. Her newest children's title is Cabin in the Snow, book two in the Prairie Skies Series, available from Aladdin Paperbacks.

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