A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Big Nate: In the Zone addresses the middle-school herd mentality: what's cool, what isn't, and who decides. Nate often sees himself as a victim -- of bad luck, overbearing teachers, a clueless father -- but readers will readily see that Nate is hardly blameless. There are good lessons on personal responsibility, being a good friend, and working as a team. They're served up with fart jokes, name-calling, and over-the-top authority figures, making it a sure hit with kids on the brink of middle school themselves. It's a bit sarcastic for 8-year-olds, the lower end of the publisher's recommended age range. We think it's a better fit for kids 9 and up, who are closer to middle school.
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What's the story?
Sixth grader Nate Wright's had a lousy streak of bad luck, even embarrassing himself onstage in front of the whole school. His luck starts to improve when his friend Chad loans Nate a supposedly lucky foot. Suddenly, Nate's riding high. He becomes a trendsetter at school and turns the tables on the popular seventh grader who'd been teasing him. Even when the lucky foot is lost, Nate finds success by working with his friends.
Is it any good?
Nate provides a needed laugh to kids who'll see their own daily struggles mirrored in his comic adventures. Parents, however, may be turned off by Nate's attitude toward school: He doesn't have much respect for his teachers, his academic effort is so-so at best, and he's quick to mock his classmates and friends.
In this installment, the sixth-grader gets unwelcome attention from the coolest kid in school and then finds the tables have turned: He's the top dog, and his former tormenter is getting teased. It isn't always obvious amid the middle-school humor, but Nate is loyal and thoughtful and empathizes with his friends and looks for opportunities to help them. As in the other Big Nate books, lots of comic-style artwork and a secret code enliven the pages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the pack of kids following Marcus begin to speak up for themselves. Is it hard to break from the crowd?
How do trends catch on among your friends or at your school?
How could Nate have avoided upsetting Artur and Mrs. Godfrey with his illustrations making fun of them?
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