Nate the Great by Marjorie Sharmat

Illustrated by Marc Simont

Goodreads: Nate the Great
Series: Nate #1

Summary: Nate the Great’s friend Annie has lost the picture she painted of her dog Fang.  Nate will have to use his powers of deduction to recover the painting and earn his reward of pancakes.

Review: Nate the Great draws readers in to its world of quirky characters and not-so-pressing mysteries from the very first page. Sharmat gives each character distinct traits—Annie likes yellow, Rosamund likes cats, and Nate likes pancakes—that simultaneously work to help younger readers identify each character and to produce laughs over their idiosyncrasies.  Older readers will appreciate the subtle irony underlying the story, especially in regards to the illustrations, which frequently show the characters in humorous situations or illustrate a contrast between what the characters say and what they do.

The simple prose and stark illustrations furthermore provide a nice introduction to the mystery genre.  Nate’s repetitious observations help mark potential clues while the uncluttered scenes make it easy to pick out elements in the illustrations that do not belong.  The manner in which the crime is solved can provide a nice transition to discussing other topics that children may be exploring in class.  Thus, though primarily meant to entertain, the book can be used to help children learn how mysteries are constructed and to encourage close reading and critical thinking.

I grew up with Nate and years later I find him just as entertaining—if not more so.  His pride in his abilities (if not always warranted) proves strangely endearing, as does Annie’s affinity for all things yellow.  I regret not purchasing some of the other titles in the series when I had the chance because I would love to follow Nate and his friends on adventures once more.

Published: 1972

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