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Posts Tagged ‘Big Nate on a Roll

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?

Nate’s a big deal in his scout troop until Artur–AKA as Mr. Perfect–joins up. Now Nate is in second place. And Artur means business.

This is the description from the back cover of Big Nate on a Roll, the third in the Big Nate book series by Lincoln Peirce. The comic strip Big Nate appears in more than three hundred newspapers in the US and online daily at the websites GoComics and Poptropica.


Lincoln Peirce stresses that comic books are R...

Lincoln Peirce stresses that comic books are REAL BOOKS. (Photo credit: MrSchuReads)

Lincoln Peirce grew up in New Hampshire and at A Nickel’s Worth, Peirce started that his notion of becoming a cartoonist began in grade three. The family was staying at the house of a teaching colleague of his dad’s, and the kids in this family had piles and piles of PEANUTS books, and this as the first time Peirce began obsessively reading comics. He began teaching himself how to draw by imitating Schultz and copying his characters of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. By the time Peirce was in elementary school, he had begun to invent his own characters. In college, he also created a weekly comic strip called “Third Floor” for the school newspaper. He later earned a graduate degree from Brooklyn College, besides studying at The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

According to The Washington Post, before becoming a professional cartoonist, Peirce taught art and coached in a New York City high school. He still coaches baseball and soccer, two sports he played as a kid. His best sport, and one in which he himself plays, is hockey.

Peirce told A Nickel’s Worth that his first paying cartoon job was in the late 1980’s. A friend of his was opening a sports bar in Brooklyn, where at the time Peirce lived, and asked him to create a character for the menus and advertising. The bar was called the Brooklyn Dodger and the character he came up with was the Artful Dodger type.

The comic strip Big Nate debuted in 1991. In addition to the Big Nate comic strip, Peirce is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Big Nate book series. His Big Nate books have been featured on Good Morning America and in the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

Peirce says that the best part of being a cartoonist is that “although I love people and am blessed to have many friends, I’m a solitary person in many ways; I enjoy working alone, trying to create a consistently funny and authentic product without having to jump through hoops or operate as part of some sort of work team.” As such, Peirce is grateful that his profession does not require him to go on “team-building” retreats. That is his idea of hell.

To aspiring cartoonists, Peirce says: Concentrate on the writing. “That’s the key as far as I’m concerned. There are countless examples of great strips in which the artwork is simple, rough, or downright mediocre—but the writing is outstanding, which makes the strip outstanding.”


Lincoln Peirce told The Washington Post that Big Nate started out as more of a “domestic humor” strip than it is now. That’s because it was originally Peirce’s intention to feature a lot of stories about Nate’s single dad. Before too long, Peirce realized that the part of the strip that he most enjoyed creating was the school humor. Not surprisingly, as he had been a teacher—and found that schools could be funny places.

When The Washington Post pointed out that Nate was not their favorite character, Peirce admitted that he tries to walk a fine line between Nate being exasperatingly lovable and obnoxious. Peirce thinks that it’s important, especially in a strip that features a kid, not to make the main character overly likable or precious. Otherwise, the humor in the strip tends to become sentimental.

Give the above description, it might not come as a shock to hear that Big Nate has his critics. Common Sense Media pointed out that Nate is a sarcastic sixth-grader who hates school. Moreover, he portrays many peers as caricatures and stereotypes. Yet Big Nate supposedly is a good kid with a heart. To find out my opinion, check back on Saturday for my review.

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