Big Nate: From the Top

Common Sense Media says

Comic-strip collection makes middle-school trials relatable.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn about the trials and tribulations of daily life as an 11-year-old, particularly life in middle school.

Positive messages

Big Nate: From the Top demonstrates the power of a sense of humor in the face of disappointments, embarrassments, and everyday challenges.

Positive role models

Adults are engaged and present, but often shown as well-meaning but out of touch, or easily upset or provoked. Kids are realistically flawed, and drawn with relatable problems.


Very minor references to situations which inspire feelings of violence but without violence shown, such as when Nate says that being called "Dude" makes him want to punch someone in the face.


Nate and friends explore the benign beginnings of interest in the opposite sex. In one panel, they read a copy of Cosmo and try to decipher an article on women who like bad boys, even going so far as trying to dress like a bad boy, but without understanding the true meaning of the phrase. 


Very minor diminishing language, such as calling something "stupid" or saying "I hate that kid." 

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents Need to Know That Big Nate: From the Top is a New York Times bestselling collection of Lincoln Peirce's comic strips of the same name (not one of his Big Nate graphic novels, such as Big Nate Goes for Broke). The strips portray the ups and downs in the life of 11-year-old, often in trouble Nate, the middle-school son of a single dad. There are some classic preteen put-downs, and some of Nate's experiences concern the stirrings of interest in the opposite sex, but are all fairly innocuous and treated with humor. Additionally, most adults are portrayed as a bit bumbling or out of touch. While Nate isn't a stellar role model, he's a smart, imaginative, and relatable character for kids who aren't big fans of school. 

What's the story?

Nate is an average middle-schooler who isn't crazy about school, doing his best to navigate the treacherous waters of 6th grade. There are teachers to battle with, boys and girls to impress, classes to get out of and homework to dodge. Can Nate survive another day in the trenches with just a sense of humor and his wits?

Is it any good?


Much like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing for previous generations, BIG NATE: FROM THE TOP focuses on a marginalized middle schooler doing his best to get through the daily grind of teachers, classmates, and life as a preteen. Nate isn't the greatest role model for boys — he spends a lot of energy trying to get out of things, goofing off, and worrying about impressing girls or staying out of trouble. However, he's a smart kid with a quick wit, the sort who is likely to find his niche a little later than others.

Kids who aren't big readers or who themselves feel like outsiders take well to both Big Nate graphic novels like Big Nate in Class by Himself and comic strip collections like this one. They're easy to read, relatable, and sympathetic to clever outcasts. Parents who've struggled to find a good literacy connection point for their middle-school boys may have luck here, where there are some good lessons about humor and clever problem-solving that can shore up confidence in reading, and at school.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about single-dad households. Do you see many stories about kids being raised by dads? Do you know any kids raised by dads? What are the unique challenges they face?

  • Nate uses his sense of humor to cope with situations that might be difficult or embarrassing. Have you used your sense of humor to deal with anything? What happened? How did it turn out?

  • Nate is very interested in being cool. Do you want to be cool? How would you describe what it means to be cool?

Book details

Author:Lincoln Peirce
Illustrator:Lincoln Peirce
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC
Publication date:October 19, 2010
Number of pages:224
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:iBooks, Kindle, Nook, Paperback

This review of Big Nate: From the Top was written by

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  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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