Friday, December 3, 2010

Big Nate Strikes Again

Peirce, Lincoln. 2010. Big Nate Strikes Again. New York: Harper.

Until I read Big Nate Strikes Again, I was unaware that Big Nate was already a comic presence on the Internet and in newspapers around the country. (Obviously, he doesn’t appear in my newspaper because I am a big comics fan and would have known better!) Without that knowledge, I immediately interpreted Big Nate Strikes Again as a Wimpy Kid wannabe.  (Sorry, but it’s true. And I will once again quote from Mary Rose Wood’s, The Mysterious Howling, “All books are judged by their covers until they are read.”)

All that aside, while Big Nate Strikes Again may be in the same size and format as the wildly popular Wimpy Kid series, it simply is not a Wimpy Kid book. Big Nate does not have the sardonic wit of the Wimpy Kid, and is written in a narrative rather than confessional, diary style. The sooner the reader dispels the urge for comparison, the sooner he will begin to enjoy Big Nate for what he is, a 6th grade boy with a couple of good friends, a crush on a cute girl, a passion for sports, a dislike for schoolwork, a rivalry with one of the “cool” kids, and a loathing for a bossy girl.

Big Nate’s story is told in the first person, accompanied by black and white sketches. Peirce’s narrative contains dialogue which appears sometimes in the printed text, sometimes in graphic format, and sometimes strays between the two, with a single sentence beginning in print and ending in illustration. In addition to the more standard illustrations, Big Nate features sequences told in comic strip form, Nate’s own home-grown comics torn from his notebook, humorous “Fact” boxes,
His concerned-parent face is exactly the same as his I-don’t-know-how-to-work-the-DVD-player face,
and various lists, such as the food that may be found in Nate’s home,
Cookies? NO! Chips? NEVER!! Try these yummy treats instead:
  • Zesty Ranch croutons
  • Prunes
  • Half a bag of chopped walnuts
  • Three packs of instant oatmeal
  • Ice cubes
  • ...
In Big Nate Strikes Again, Nate must navigate the difficult world of middle school and all of its pitfalls - working in pairs with Gina - the one girl he can’t stand, avoiding a boy who may want to beat him up, and dealing with the fact that he’s captain of a fleeceball team called (gasp!) The Kuddle Kittens!

Big Nate Strikes Again contains prodigious amounts of boyish humor, and readers will find themselves rooting for this very likable young character.

My only complaint? Why does the librarian have to be the “bad guy?”
Oop. It’s Hickey.  Mrs. Hickson, I mean.  She’s the head librarian, and she’s not really into “hanging out.”  I’m pretty sure the beanbag chairs weren’t her idea.  If you’re in her library, she want to see you DOING something.  “Um... yeah, I’m doing research on Ben Franklin.  “Well then,” she answers, “Wouldn’t a BOOK come in handy?” Librarians. Aren’t they hilarious?
Sometimes we are! Well, at least Mr. Peirce didn’t draw her with a bun and glasses on a chain.

Bottom line? I think fans of the Wimpy Kid series will enjoy Big Nate, especially the boys.

Click here to see Big Nate as he appears in Lincoln Peirce’s daily syndicated comic strip of the same name, or check out the Big Nate website for all things related to Big Nate.

Review copy provided by LibraryThing.

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