Welcome to Masters of Mystery, where we feature a classic detective. Today we’re turning to the Juvenile detective category, and looking at:
Nate the Great
by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Some interesting facts about Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and the series:
1. Marjorie Sharmat has written over 130 children’s books since 1969, with the most popular being her Nate the Great series. Many of her books have been among the Library of Congress’ Books of the Year and the Literary Guild Book Club selections.
2. Nate the Great books are geared for the 6-9 year-old reader. There are twenty titles in all, published between 1972 and 2009.
3. Sharmat has a spin-off series: Olivia Sharp, Agent for Secrets. She’s Nate the Great’s cousin, and solves mysteries, too, in four books so far.
Why we like Nate the Great:
1. He handles the issues kids care about but can’t go to the police for: lost beachbag, missing sock, stray turtle, etc.
2. Nate likes pancakes. They help him think while he’s figuring out a tough case.
3. His partner is his dog, Sludge. He’s the panting, silent type – always a great asset.
4. Nate takes his job very seriously, and he’s good at it. Kids call him at all hours, day or night. Just a quick note to his mom, and he’s on his way.
5. His clients are as distinctive in personality as he is. The regular cast of kid characters includes: Oliver, the neighborhood pest; Rosamund, who makes tuna cookies and other concoctions for her “Hex” cats (Big Hex, Little Hex, Super Hex, and Super Duper Hex); and Annie, who is accompanied by her VERY scary dog, Fang.
6. Nate the Great’s first-person narrative voice is in the mock style of the terse, hard-boiled private eye, evocative of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. I had trouble keeping a straight face the first time I read Nate the Great aloud to my son. It parodies the style so well!
Here’s an excerpt from the most recent book, Nate the Great and the Hungry Book Club (2009):
My name is Nate the Great.
I am a detective.
My dog, Sludge, is a detective too.
Right now I am a mumbling, bumbling,
I have just tripped over
a big pile of books
that Rosamond left in my house.
Sludge is sniffing them.
He has been sniffing them
since Rosamond knocked on my door
She was carrying a bunch of books.
Three more were piled on her head.
Rosamond looked very strange.
Rosamond looks strange all the time.
“I have great news,” she said.
“I have started a book club.
I am calling it Rosamond’s Ready Readers.
But there is trouble in the club.
One of the members is trying
to wreck my cookbook. Look!”
Rosamond took a book off her head.
The other two books fell off.
“Why are you carrying books on top
of your head?” I asked.
“Because I’m president of a club now.
These books help me hold my head high
and look like a president.”
I, Nate the Great, knew that I was
looking at a very strange president.
“This is my new cookbook,” she said.
“Yesterday I left it open on my
kitchen table after I made treats
for the club meeting.
When the meeting was over,
I went to get the treats
for the members.
The page that was open
was torn, ripped, ruined!”
Sludge and I looked at the page.
I, Nate the Great, say that
it was torn, ripped, ruined.
Beyond print – Nate the Great on television:
Nate the Great Goes Undercover (1974) was made into a television movie, which won the Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival Award.
TheaterWorks USA has done a stage production of Nate the Great. Here’s their promo (I know, it’s kinda corny):
Great sites for more info:
Printable Activities for Kids – including “Write your own mystery!” “Where’s Sludge?” “Secret Word Search” and more!
So, have you or any kids you know read Nate the Great? What do you think of the current kid detective offerings out there today? I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,