In the tradition of “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” Lincoln Peirce’s “Big Nate Goes For Broke” is one part comic book and one part chaper book. The popular format for early readers has struck gold for the kid’s book publishing industry, since it makes reading chapter books that much more entertaining. With it’s relateable-for-any-kid storyline, the book is a win for anyone who wants to encourage the joys of reading for gradeschoolers. Peirce’s talent lies in his ability to generate a story that kids can automatically identify with. Getting in trouble with the teacher for passing notes in class, getting sent to detention, worrying about the ever-present threat of bullies… what kid hasn’t put up with that kind of grade school trauma?
References to his teacher as “She Who Must Not Be Named” and to fellow students as “dumber than a bag of hammers” Big Nate isn’t toning it down for the little guys, which can sometimes make parents a bit concerned about the content, but in our view, it’s another way to make the book appealing to kids and it helps to get them reading. It’s a book with a big heart and it takes on some good topics at the heart of the growing up experience, but it does it in a way that makes kids feel like they’re getting away with something by reading the book…. “Shhhhhh! Don’t mom and dad I’m reading!”
Don’t let the use of the word “dumb” cause you to miss the point of this little book, because that’s also what makes Big Nate such an endearing character for kids. He’s not just a wispy, unrealized character. He’s a character that has enough depth to be able to tackle all of those troublesome emotions that kids struggle with…jealousy, anger, and the classic girls vs. boys conundrum. His epic rivalry with Jefferson, his penchant for getting himself in mischief, his need to draw, doodle, and scribble his way around the world as he sees it. He’s really the naughty poster boy for aspiring child comic artists everywhere. And, we all know how badly every kid needs their own fictional hero to relate to.
Nate’s character is sort of “Calvin and Hobbes” meets “Denice the Menace” but with more snarky kid-style comments. The teacher on kid disciplinary action just doesn’t disapoint. Toss in a healthy exploration of the various benefits and pitfalls of allowing girls into your Doodlers club, and we see Big Nate go through the motions of a veritable “Cartooning Catastrophe.” Imagine poor Nate trying to answer when a girl asks him why the “smelly boys always draw superheroes” when they should be drawing “unicorns.” Oh, the horror! It’s just cleverly realized stuff and it makes the kid in you smile. Actual children love Big Nate for all sorts of reasons and his personality is just one of them. We can’t help but want to share the Big Nate book series with all of the young ones that we know. You can see a video of author Lincoln Peirce demonstrating how to draw Nate here.
Lincoln Peirce is the author of “Big Nate Goes For Broke” and posts comic strips daily at comics.com.