Allison's Book Bag

Big Nate on A Roll by Lincoln Peirce

Posted on: April 27, 2013

Am I becoming jaded? My current students enthusiastically recommended the Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce to me and so this week I read Big Nate on a Roll. The book wasn’t terrible. In fact, it was okay. I even agree with my students who repeatedly told me, “It’s funny!” But that’s all. It’s nothing special.

While reading Big Nate, I kept trying to figure out what Greg of the Wimpy Kid series has over Big Nate. I connected enough with Greg that I bought the set, watched the first movie, and read the first book with my students. Nate, not so much. But why? I know that both main characters dislike school, caricaturize their peers, develop a romantic interest, and mostly look out for themselves. In other words, neither character has much in the way of redeemable qualities, yet do bear strong resemblances to real middle-school boys. But of the two, Greg has more attitude. For instance, while Nate works hard every day for the chance to win a skateboard, Greg either wouldn’t even try or would resort to trickery. And as such, Greg is more interesting and unique.

And there’s the lack of memorable moments. Anyone who has read the Wimpy Kid books knows about the dreaded Cheese Touch; no such legends exist in Big Nate. Rather, Big Nate is about detention, lost skateboards, fund-raising, matchmaking, a school play, and a rare comic. All of these escapades were mildly entertaining but, alas, none of these compel me to seek out more of Big Nate.

The one memorable thing about Big Nate on a Roll is memorable for the wrong reason. Nate’s nemesis is a boy named Artur, who is described as having “broken English” and an “accent.” In other words, the only multicultural character is “the bad guy.” Was this necessary?

Aside from this one grievance, I don’t have any outstanding complaints. Oh, I know there are adults that don’t like how Nate puts down school, books, and good behavior. Yet to me Nate comes across as an average kid. Sure, Nate might throw out a few insults, but nothing he does is terribly mean. Moreover, Nate’s nice side shines through, such as when he competes for the esteemed skateboard prize.

Just as importantly, Peirce knows how to bring out the humor in everyday situations. Case in point, when Nate agrees to walk his neighbor’s dog, he is fully confident that he can handle the task but quickly learns what “unpredictable” means. The situation isn’t anything new or extraordinary, but it’s funny enough to make me smile. And that’s about how I’d describe all of Big Nate on a Roll. So if you know a boy reader, especially a reluctant one, try borrowing some of the Big Nate set. They’re nothing exceptional, but they’re worth a read.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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