Hey guys it’s Sam, and you might remember a time on this very site way back when* (*May 2011, to be exact) I put up a review on Big Nate 2, and I rambled on and on about it in one direction and one direction only: merely how horrible it was (and I wasn’t kidding). And you might remember how I concluded the post: hoping that the by-then-upcoming Big Nate on a Roll, the third entry, would invigorate the series and lift it from its many troubles. Well, now I’ve finally come to read it, and I’m surprised at how serious Lincoln took my information, if he even did. If there was a stream with stepping stones that worked as a reviewing system (the books that stay at the start are the worst, the books that cross are the best), Big Nate 3 would’ve already been almost finished crossing the stream. And why do I say almost? Well, read this review to find that out.
“The rest of the play is kind of a blur. I can’t stop thinking about Artur. Hey, that rhymes!”
- “Big Nate” Wright
(If you wanna skip to the real review, then ignore this paragraph and read the one below.)
The Big Nate series may have published its first full-feature book (not a lousy compilation of comic strips ripped off the web) 2 years ago in ’10, but Nate celebrated his series’ twentieth birthday just last year. If you do the math right, you should come up with the fact that Nate’s series started back in ’91. There have been eight other Big Nate books that weren’t full-feature novels, and almost half of them were cartoon compilations (see what I mean?): 1992′s Add More Babes!, 2008′s I Smell A Pop Quiz!, 2010′s Big Nate from the Top, 2o11′s Big Nate Out Loud and Big Nate and Friends. (Plus this years’s upcoming What Could Possibly Go Wrong?) The other three were what Lincoln Peirce himself described as “failed experiments”: his first 3 Big Nate eBooks from ’02. They were Dibs on This Chair, Pray for a Firedrill, and Big Nate…Makes a Splash.
Have you ever been itching to steal the first place title from your strongest rival? That’s what Nate’s dealing with in Big Nate on a Roll. Nate was always Joe #1 in his Timber Scout troop…that is, until Artur—aka Mr. Perfect—is newly recruited. Now Nate’s been degraded to 2nd place, and Artur means business even without his own knowing of it. But another problem kindles when Nate’s trapped in the center of a “dog-leash incident” and loses his skateboard in the process, landing deep in the waters of Beard’s Creek. Sooner or later, Nate and Artur are fierce competitors in a Timber Scout contest to see who can sell the most wall hangings and soak up the most greens. The prizes, from 3rd-place to 1st, are:
- The 3rd-place winner will receive a Rockin’ Robot kit that allows you to build your own robot with the ability to play over a hundred songs.
- The runner-up will receive a plain telescope with a celestial chart included…whatever that is.
- The grand-prize winner will receive a “hi-flyin’” customized skateboard that allows you to design the board the way you want to! With 55mm wheels and a cast aluminum truck assembly, it’s no wonder why Nate’s fighting hard for this gift.
Will Nate put Artur in second for once in his runner-upping life? Or will he land with the silver medal while Artur gets the gold?
This book is a surprising step in the right direction for Big Nate. Plenty of laughs, drama, and action keep the book strung up and interesting to read. Colorful language (“that shut her up”), violence (ex: a woman is disturbed by the fact that Nate included “botched surgery” in one of his comics) and some lovey scenes do occur, but parental-wise, there’s not much to worry for about this book. Well, maybe except the violence part. Instead of shunning Lincoln, I’m actually coming to praise him for realizing what he’s doing to his fans and stepping up his game. Not by a little, but by a lot. And I swear, if Big Nate 4 can pull this off when it comes out in two weeks, Lincoln’s series is pretty much no longer in critical danger. I should know: did you see what I had to deal with for Big Nate 2? Anyway, I feel good that I had been anticipating my opportunity to read this book for so long. And, hey—I think it actually adds up evenly! Now that I’m feeling all happy, let’s roll the chart.
2 3/4 out of 5 – Educational value – As Nate’s constantly updating his amount of money in the wall hanging competition, he uses a heck of a lot of math problems that readers can follow along to. For example, Nate calculates Artur’s amount of sold wall hangings (53) times the cost of the wall hangings apiece ($8) to get the total amount of money Artur has received for the competition ($424).
3 out of 5 – Positive messages – Although Nate does show the competitive half of him throughout the book, it’s a good message that sometimes we all need to unravel our competitive sides every once in a while. Besides that, there’s not much messages to go around, as Nate’s best friends aren’t very “friend-y”, and his shown teachers have very snappy natures. Wall hangings do have kiddie but sometimes sweet messages on them. Examples include “Sharing is caring!”, “Don’t you love grandmas?”, and even “Follow your rainbow!”
1 3/4 out of 5 – Positive role models – Nate’s sometimes disastrous, other times delightful life is perfectly related to that of real life. Life is almost everything or anything you’d want to call it: a disaster, a movie, a rollercoaster full of twists and turns, and even sometimes a box of chocolates. Nate may get competitive, but maybe that’s how you operate contests, too.
3 3/4 out of 5 – Ease of read – Big Nate on a Roll is a great and invigorating entry into the series, full of humor, action, and plenty of surprises as well. Although the first time I read this book it felt empty at first, I continued reading on and I only rekindled with that feeling every once in a while. That means not all the time. Although this might be more than violent than past entries, it is definitely that one entry in the Big Nate as-of-now trilogy that lifted the series from the rubble and debris of its disasters and gently washed it off until it was clean. Weird metaphor, huh? I remember when I said in the finale of my last Big Nate review: “Hopefully, Lincoln can try again in his third book, which is already in production, due to release this August [I released the post by May '11, so book 3 hadn't arrived yet]. Maybe he’ll take back the innovation and get serious this time.” Well, past and modern Sams, you got your wishes.
4 out of 5 – Violence – This book has a baffling amount of violence. Nate mishandles a fake wooden sword and accidentally decapitates a garden gnome with it. One of Nate’s friends, Chad, is shown slamming into a wall via wirework during a play. In one illustration, Teddy and Francis [having come back from a scout camping trip] are in bad shape, Francis’ face swollen with hornet swings, and Teddy about to barf. Nate draws up a newcomer’s comic about a stuntman named Moe Mentum (get it?) that breaks sixteen of his bones, punctures one of his lungs, and has five heart attacks, all in one stunt. Another one of Nate’s comics about our favorite medical misfit Doctor Cesspool, along with his rival Dr. Arch Enemy and fellow nurse Maureen Biology (obviously a play on “marine biology”), shows Cesspool accidentally botching a man while performing surgery on him, putting his foot where his hand should be and his hand where his foot should be. A woman that Nate tries to sell this to is greatly disturbed by this fact. On a camping trip, Nate’s dad accidentally sets up everyone in sight to be skunk-sprayed. Nate pats himself on the back by making a comic about the super-heroic version of himself (Ultra-Nate), and he saves Jenny moments before a truck passes by. Spitsy the dog dive-attacks Nate and begins licking and slobbering all over him. A drop of stray paint lands in Nate’s eye, and he blindly crashes into a ladder that Artur is standing on, causing the two to fall onto the floor. Later, Nate gets caught in an incident where he skates right into an outstretched dog leash. Nate also makes the bad decision of tying Spitsy’s leash to his belt, as Spitsy drags him helplessly dead-on into a tree. And I don’t think I’m even finished with it all.
1 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Nate’s still trying to win Jenny’s heart, although for the first time that’s only minor in the book. The final panel of Nate’s camp comic shows everyone in their underwear (including the male adults) in the lake, washing off skunk smell.
2 3/4 out of 5 – Product Placement – Big Nate 3 doesn’t state much direct brand names, and although a competition’s prizes include a build-a-robot kit, a telescope, and a custom skateboard, there is nothing product-placing except the fact that Big Nate 3 belongs to a famous children’s book series.
Entertainment: B+ (3.5 points)
Fun: B+ (3.5 points)
Smarts: B (3 points)
Style: A (4 points)
Read-Again Ratio: B (3 points)
Humor: A- (4 points)
FINAL SCORE: 21 out of 30 (…), 3 1/2 stars out of 5, 81% out of 100%
CONSENSUS: Big Nate on a Roll is the perfect apology to Peirce’s previous failure, bringing back all the good hijinks and heartwarm, but with some trip-ups stuck in the vat, Peirce’s series may not be risen from its rubble completely after all.
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This week’s Would You Rather o’ The Week (weekly “Would You Rather”s to conclude every post) is: “WOULD YOU RATHER…be the protagonist in a terrible movie, or have a minor role in an amazing movie?” wt