Big Nate Compilation 3 : Genius Mode by Lincoln Peirce

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Big Nate Compilation 3 : Genius Mode by Lincoln Peirce

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A bizarre mix of Andy Capp and Dennis the Menace, as the hit American comic of a wry, likeable loser from sixth grade comes to us in a bumper anthology.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: August 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 9780007515646

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They say you should live your life like an adventure, and Big Nate certainly does that, even if it is only four panels at a time, meaning the full plot of the story can take a week or more to come out. For Big Nate is a star of an American newspaper comic strip, and this, believe it or not, is his tenth collection. We learn from this all about his friendships at school, his relations with his teachers and father, and just what a soppy thing his most unmasculine dog can be. Here are comics, baseball and laziness, as every American kid knows them. Luckily for us, though, Big Nate travels well.

You'll gather from the above that no, I hadn't heard of him either. He might be in 250 syndicated newspaper strips, he might well have a daily website update for those needing an archive or a catch-up or quick fix, but he was certainly off my radar until now. Yet read that again – TENTH book. I can't even call this 'the green one' as we've already had a green one. (Although it would seem that they're published in smaller editions, and this might be a bumper collection - I'm just judging by the array on the back cover.)

Coming to this fresh then, it's a touch awkward to get the 'ear' and the rhythm of the book right at first. Certainly there's not a howling punchline to every day's collection of four panels, but over the week on the whole it's a continuing episode, and by the end it's probably going to raise at least a chuckle. Sundays are different and there's a double-helping of a stand-alone scene. They're reproduced nicely here on chunky big pages, and gathered en masse they're great at showing the arc of the school year, from Valentine's issues up to summer term report cards and ball games. Working so well as they do on the page it’s clear that this, original strip and website aside, is the best way to read them.

And like I say, they travel – even if I suspect an editor refashioned a late panel to mention 'mobile phone' and not 'cell'. It's not all American cultural references and US-only gags. What there is too is a sort of adult archness, suggesting that Peirce knows what he's doing – he not only provides a 'yuck', as we used to call them, for the young reader but gives something to the adult buyer of the newspaper who still peruses the funnies. They're not as funny as the Wimpy Kid whose Jeff Kinney provides a cover quote, but they do have more of an all-ages appeal as a result.

I have no idea by what machinations the kid will not progress and get into seventh grade – I assume from the cover illustrations of all ten he's not aged much since making his debut much nearer the turn of the millennium. But whatever age he is and whatever age I get to be, I don't think I would be too disappointed to pick up more of the same. The second green one, then, is certainly a nice introduction.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For the gen on comix's most famous young boy, we recommend Tintin: Herge and His Creation by Harry Thompson. For very different young men in graphic form, we enjoyed Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley and Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer.

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