Big Nate Blasts Off by Lincoln Peirce
|Big Nate Blasts Off by Lincoln Peirce|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Perhaps the best book from this stable – the franchise might not have lit the British shores alight, but there's cleverness here, and a book perfectly matching its audience's wants.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: April 2016|
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books|
First things first, no – that title is not the puerile British schoolboy's meaning of blasting off. I'm not entirely sure why the book is called that, to be honest. But I do know that said British schoolboy – and many from many other countries too – will take to these pages, even if they have never seen any of the other books in this series. The humble hero with the spiky hair and quick wit is in trouble with (a) his comics of the teachers, (b) his finding the time to practise Ultimate Frisbee for an interschool cup, and (c) his emotions, as he falls big-time for the delightful Ruby Dinsmore. Yes, the very Ruby Dinsmore the main school bully also wants to hang out with…
What I expect from books like this is several plots all combined to some extent to create a narrative mesh that leaves if not the ending a surprise, then at least perhaps the emphasis of the ending up in the air. Here it's pretty obvious what the main thrust of the book will be – Nate vs bully vs Ruby. But what surprised me was the fact that this book actually changed things around. Nowhere is the sense that this is one of those sitcom episodes where so little happens you can watch them in any order and not get hung up on a plot beat you've not yet seen. OK, things don't change quite as much as Nate fears when a family secret comes out, but they certainly change. As far as brave is ever a word to describe reluctant readers, this is it.
That's not to say, however, that a lot hasn't stayed the same. The book is still a whizz – so little words as plain text, peppered with cartoons, full-on comics, dialogue given full-face attribution. The sense of humour is still fine – whether it's the more snide-seeming, non-diegetic drop-out a la The Simpsons to something humorous but perhaps a flash-back or otherwise non-essential to the story, or whether it's a full-on embodied part of the plot. Character is still nicely judged – Nate doesn't have it all his own way by a long chalk, but nothing really pulls on the heart-strings too much to make you less than fully engage with him. Nate doesn't age whatsoever – he's been doing this for years – and his mates are still fully interchangeable, meaning character can be quite thin on the ground at times.
I can't see a school report discussing the non-diegetic comedy in these books, or the fact that future books in the series will forever be reflecting back on these pages in particular. What they will talk about is the fine cartoonish line of Peirce, as he fully 'gets' the visual style and mental process of his hero, creating a book that's definitely ripe for being by Nate, and for Nates everywhere. They'll pick up on the many-faceted intentions of the average lad at school – to shake the embarrassing dad off, to be better at sports and less often in detention, and to get the girl. At the end of the school day, that's pretty much what all of us have wanted at one stage. And for the primary school lad, this is pretty much what they want to be reading.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce is probably good enough the reluctant audience don't realise they're missing the pictures.
You can read more book reviews or buy Big Nate Blasts Off by Lincoln Peirce at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Big Nate Blasts Off by Lincoln Peirce at Amazon.com.
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