Thursday, February 17, 2011

Poor Richard Rides Again: Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce

by Nate Wright, Esq.

Egg salad
School picture day
Bubble gum that loses its flavor in 20 seconds
Any art project involving egg cartons or pipe

Big Nate is back, but he's not having his best week.

The good news? He's finally been named captain of the SPOFF (Sports Played Only For Fun) fleece ball team. The bad news? That show-off, know-it-all, perfect A+-only Gina is on his team. She can't hit, she can't catch, and she can't pitch--anything but sarcasm, that is, and her pitiful performance is the only thing that stands between Big Nate and the SPOFFY, the coveted soda-can-covered-with-crumpled-foil trophy for the championship.

The good news? He's assigned to do research on Benjamin Franklin, whom Nate finds to be a pretty cool dude. The bad news? His partner on this big-deal project is--Gina.

Nate actually hides out, er, does research on Big Ben in the library while dodging other duties. Nate is proud of his research product, BEN FRANKLIN COMIX, which the stodgy Gina rejects, pointing out the superiority of her thick desktop-published thesis, complete with web photos and copious facts about Franklin, Citizen and Founding Father.

Nate sees an opening here. He makes Gina an offer she can't refuse: she pretends she can't play on fleece ball days, and he "lets" her do the whole report all by herself, assuring that her record of perfect grades will remain intact. It's a win-win for our boy!

But best laid plans often go astray. First, Mrs. Godfrey, stickler for the rules of writing, detects, amazingly, a significant transgression in Gina's report:

Mrs. Godfrey starts flipping through it. Her smile slowly fades.

"Is--is something wrong?" Gina says. Her voice sounds a tiny bit higher than usual.
"Can you tell me about these visual aids?" Mrs. Godfrey asks.

Gina looks panicky. " some of them off the internet and I photocopied the others from library books."

Mrs. Godfrey frowns "The instructions were very clear." She reads them aloud.

"Visual aids are an important part of your project. You must create them yourself. Using images from outside sources could result in a failing grade."

At first Nate secretly smirks. How tragic for poor Gina. But then he remembers that as part of the team, her grade is also his grade. And he's already failing. Ooops!

In Lincoln Peirce's second cartoon classic, Big Nate Strikes Again (Harper, 2010) it's a win-win for both Gina and Big Nate, as Big Nate pulls this one out when he produces his Ben Franklin Comix, which knocks Mrs. Godfrey's socks off with its creative graphic exposition of the well-researched highlights of Poor Richard's career. Advantage: Nate. But then Gina comes off the bench to sub for the injured Nate and hits it out of the park in the championship final of the SPOFF playoff.

Score: Nate: 1; Gina: 1. And the rivalry continues.

As in his New York Times best-selling Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, Peirce hits a home run in Big Nate Strikes Again, with his hilarious spoof of middle school angst and his practiced cartoon exposition. Jeff Kinney, author of the wildly popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid, says, "Big Nate is funny, big time." He ought to know.

Peirce's just-out latest is Big Nate: From the Top.

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