Sunday, December 7, 2014

Book Review: Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Craig Sharmat

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good Christmas story with logical mystery
Cons: Only really fits one month a year.
The Bottom Line:
Doggy Christmas card
Fun mystery to find it
Perfect for this month

Fang Hires Nate the Great

Getting stuff in the mail is fun – well as long as it isn’t bills.  However, when you are expecting something and it doesn’t turn up, that can get frustrating.  I’ve never thought of hiring a detective, but this is just the kind of case Nate the Great winds up with in Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas.

These picture books have been around a long time.  My family discovered the first one at the library when I was little and the sequels with my brother.  While we agree the first was the best, the others can still be quite fun.  Nate is a young detective who finds himself hired to solve cases for his friends in the neighborhood.  The books are narrated in a Joe Friday deadpan.  But how can you not love a detective who love pancakes as much as Nate does?  That was one thing that sold me on him even as a kid.

It is one week before Christmas, and Nate the Great is shoveling his walk.  However, he’s about to get a new client when Annie and her dog Fang show up.  Fang always gets a Christmas card from his mother, but this year it hasn’t arrived.  While Nate and Fang don’t exactly get along (Nate would rather shovel the walk), he reluctantly begins to search for the missing card.  What clues can he find?

I would be tempted to say that I solved the plot before Nate, but he stumped me.  (I know, I know, a mystery reader like me stumped but a picture book.)  Yet the clues where there for him and the reader to figure things out.  That’s one thing I like about the best books in the series – we are given the clues, and they are clues that kids should be able to pick up on as well.

Along the way, we get the usual detours to visit other characters in the series.  While Oliver doesn’t show up, Rosamand and her cats make quite a funny appearance.  I loved that scene.

Yes, there are bits of humor throughout the story that will certainly entertain adults even if the kids don’t quite get them.

Speaking of which, I’ve seen these books on easy reader lists.  While some of the character names might be challenging, I think many beginning readers could work their way through the books with a little help.  There are illustrations on most two page spreads, but this is a wordier book that some books out there.  Think more Dr. Seuss than Mo Willems for length.

I spotted this one in my local Barnes and Noble, obviously displayed to tie in with the season.  It’s a story that could only be told in December, and includes references to Hanukah as well as Christmas in it.

I’m surprised I hadn’t read this book in the past, but I’m glad I found it this year.  Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas is a fun read that everyone will enjoy year after year.

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