The kids at my school are absolutely nuts about the Big Nate series, I struggle to keep them on the shelves! Not that this is a bad problem for a library, but seeing as I have about 40 copies amongst 300 students and only two that haven’t been checked out I figured that I should give one a read and see what all the hype is about.
Title: Big Nate: Silent But Deadly
Author: Lincoln Pierce
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Comics, Graphics Novel
Themes: Friendship, Pranks, Humour, Family, School
My Rating: 4/ 5
Middle school is a breeding ground for mischief and dreaming big for Big Nate and his pals!
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR!
Everyone’s favorite sixth grader is back for more misadventures, and Big Nate: Silent But Deadly smells like a winner!
Whether he’s showing the ropes to a detention rookie, campaigning for the Student of the Month Award, or writing hilarious movie reviews for The Weekly Bugle, Nate Wright never fails to make his mark at P.S. 38. But middle school’s no bed of roses. In fact, sometimes it just plain stinks. Just ask the Great Nose-ini! Nate’s alter ego with a sense for scents can smell trouble a mile away . . . or at the very next desk. Was that you, Gina?
Join Nate and the gang for nonstop laughs in this latest collection of Big Nate comics!
Given that my students are absolutely nuts about this series, I think I was expecting to dive into something a little more substantial. But, after reminding myself that this is a series that resonates the most with kids in grades 2-5, I think perhaps my expectations were a little too high. Regardless, I’m glad that I finally dove into one of these as it’s great to see what’s got my kids excited to read.
There’s lots to love about this book, and I have no doubt that it will be a smashing hit like all those in the series that came before it. The artwork is simple and cartoonish, with block colours and high contrast. It’s easy to read with a spacious layout, and the colour blocking is such that even those with colour blindness are not likely to encounter too many issues. All of the panels read left-to-right and not too much action happens in the gutters, which makes this a perfect book where new comics readers can cut their their teeth on the medium and gain essential literacy competencies.
I love too, how the comics are a series of vignettes with some being just one page, while others are more substantial. Sure, there are arguments for a sustained plot, but the smaller episodes mean that this book will appeal to both established and reluctant readers alike. Given the spread of reading abilities within the targeted age groups, it can be difficult to find books that appeal in terms of difficulty and structure level across a broader spectrum and this one absolutely hits the mark.
But I didn’t love everything about this book, and as a result I’m am somewhat saddened by what must be in all the others that came before it. It plays strongly on stereotypes and reinforced some (gender) roles that I find a little concerning. Sure, this is meant to be funny, and yes it’s great to have a prolific series that appeals largely to boys, but some of the messaging is… outdated. Girls can be smart without being angry, can be discussed without being attached to male partner (how does a work of children’s lit fail the Bechtel test?), women can be older without enduring a loveless marriage, boys can settle disputes without resorting to violence, and big words can (and should) be used without encountering derision. My feminist arguments aside, it is the fear of/ need to ridicule intelligence that I find incredibly concerning. To send the message to kids this young that smartness and popularity are opposing forces is unnerving.
With that being said, I know that I am probably going to read a lot more into the messaging than the kids ever will. It’s funny, engaging, and is sure to get a large portion of young readers amped up about diving in. And not all of the messaging in bad! I need to say that after my little rant about – there is a huge focus on creativity, friendship, family, teamwork, and personal growth. So in this I am willing to accept the balance if it gets even the most reluctant readers turning the pages.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! Despite the misconceptions about the graphic novel format, it introduces incredibly sophisticated words and concepts to it’s readers – often well above the intended grade level. Yet, the subject matter remains enticing and the pages packed with bawdy humour.
Librarians, order in hardcover – this baby will be in high demand!
Many thanks to Lincoln Pierce and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.