Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Review: Nate the Great, San Francisco Detective by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery in a new setting
Cons: Chapters?  Missing the regular supporting characters
The Bottom Line
Tracking a joke book
Is no laughing matter for
This young detective

Nate the Great and the Missing San Francisco Joke Book

A detective can never go on vacation without running across a case.  I think it's a law or something.  It even holds true for young detectives who star in picture books.  You need look no further than Nate the Great, San Francisco Detective to see the proof.

Nate the Great and his dog Sludge are on vacation to San Francisco.  They are supposed to be visiting his cousin Olivia, but when they arrive she is out on several cases of her own.

One of her current cases is finding the joke book that Duncan misplaced.  He's desperate to find it so he can keep a promise to tell a joke that afternoon.  So Nate begins to try to find the book.  Will he be able to track it down by the deadline?

Despite a new setting, most of the conventions of the series are still in play.  Nate the Great solving a case without adults around seems a little different in a big city, although there is a chauffeur around in this one.  Then again, it's a kid's mystery, and adults are usually the background characters in those anyway.

The case itself is fairly usual for the series - Nate is looking for something that someone lost.  Eventually, he puts together a couple of clues and figures out where it is.  What amazes me is that the clues are always there.  Even though it is a picture book series, the author plays fair with the reader.  Which is why I felt a little silly when I didn't figure this one out.

The book is written with the classic short chapters and mostly familiar words that make it a good choice for beginning readers ready for the next step.  And there's just a hint of humor to spice things up.  The illustrations are by Martha Weston, and she has put her own touch on things while mostly keeping true to the classic look of the characters and water color feel for the pictures.

But there were a couple of things that threw me off.  I missed the regular characters from the series.  They make a brief appearance, but I found I really missed their quirkiness. Duncan is okay, but he just doesn't quite measure up, and he's really the only character besides Nate here.

Additionally, this book is divided into 10 chapters.  I don’t know why, but that is really bugging me.  It's not any longer than the others in the series, so I don't see the need.  I know it's superficial and irrelevant, but there you go.

Nate the Great, San Francisco Detective tries some new things.  It certainly entertains if not all the changes were winners.

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