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Literature / Big Nate

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The very first book in the series and Nate still can't resist hogging the cover.
"The point is, I want to use my talents for more than just memorizing useless facts. I'm meant for bigger things. I am... destined for greatness!"

The Big Nate chapter books are a book series by Lincoln Pierce based on the comic strip of the same name. The first one, Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, was published in 2010 by HarperCollins Publishers. Books 1-6 were published by this same company, while the last two books were published by Balzer + Bray.

The books contain further adventures of Nate and his friends Francis, Teddy, Chad, and Dee Dee in a blended comic strip/text format. Eight books in the series have been published, which are as follows:

  • Big Nate: In a Class by Himself: The first novel in the series. At the beginning of the school day, Nate gets a fortune cookie that reads, "Today you will surpass all others" and Nate spends his day trying to make it come true, while getting lots of detentions from teachers in the process.
  • Big Nate: Strikes Again: The second novel in the series. Nate finds himself both working on a social studies project with Gina and on a fleeceball team with her. He's afraid that Gina will hinder his fleeceball team's success, while Gina thinks the same about him and the social studies project.
  • Big Nate: On a Roll: The third novel in the series. After losing his skateboard in a creek, Nate is eager to win a better one in a Timber Scouts contest to sell the most wall hangings. Artur provides plenty of competition, however, and Nate has to beat him to the prize.
  • Big Nate: Goes for Broke: The fourth novel in the series. Due to problems at P. S. 38, the students are sent to their rival school, Jefferson, temporarily. They are determined to break Jefferson's winning streak against P. S. 38... and in all the drama, Nate breaks his arm. This is the first chapter book to include Canon Immigrant Dee Dee.
  • Big Nate: Flips Out: The fifth novel in the series. After Nate supposedly loses an expensive school camera and accidentally reveals to the entire school Francis' Embarrassing Middle Name, Francis breaks their friendship. Nate wants to become neater so he can find the camera if he still has it, and is hypnotized by Teddy's uncle. It works, and he is praised by the teachers for his neatness, but he feels miserable in his new personality.
  • Big Nate: In the Zone: The sixth novel in the series. After Nate suffers a particularly bad string of terrible luck, Chad lends Nate his good luck charm. Nate's life suddenly takes a sharp turn for the better, but it builds a rivalry between Nate and the seventh graders, especially Marcus.
  • Big Nate: Lives it Up: The seventh novel in the series. A new kid arrives in school named Breckenridge Puffington III, and Nate is assigned to be his "buddy" and show him around. Unfortunately, the kid has a fascination with plants and is annoying to Nate when he's around. Meanwhile, the 100th anniversary of the school is approaching, and the historical records written by a former student are much more interesting than Nate thought they would be.
  • Big Nate: Blasts Off: The eighth and currently final novel in the series. Nate fights with Randy one too many times and they both get sent to peer counseling to work it out. The school's annual Mud Bowl is approaching, and Nate is on the team to beat Jefferson... and maybe impress a new girl at school, Ruby Dinsmore.

So far no more books have been planned for the series. Internet rumors of supposed 9th and 10th books generally have no basis in Word of God.

On February 19, 2020, it was announced that Nickelodeon had greenlit an Animated Adaptation based on the series. In December 2021 it was announced that the series would instead premiere on Paramount+ on February 17, 2022.

These tropes are destined for greatness!

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: There's a lot of this in Flips Out.:
    • In the comics, Francis's embarrassing middle name "Butthurst" was just invoked as a one-off gag. In this book, it's a dark secret that Francis told Nate, and Nate revealing it in a moment of anger results in Francis breaking off their friendship for a while.
    • The same thing happens for Nate's hypnosis to be neat. In the comics, this was just a goofy story arc in which Nate gets hypnotized to have better grades and has this easily undone when he finds he no longer enjoys cheez doodles. In this book, Nate does it out of guilt at losing the school's camera and Francis getting blamed for this. It's played much more seriously, with Nate being absolutely miserable and not even impressing Francis. It can't be undone easily, and the whole thing ends with a very earnest Be Yourself message.
    • Nate's fear of cats is mostly open in the comics, and usually isn't played seriously. In Flips Out, Nate pretends that he just doesn't like cats, and his admission that he's afraid of cats is a big, serious moment.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The novels tend to combine many different story arcs from the comic at once. For example, the time when the students had to temporarily go to Jefferson because their own school was full of mold was combined with the "We have to beat Jefferson at something" arc.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Amanda is obsessed with ponies. She shows her friends stories about Wonderflanks the horse, once drew a picture of ponies that went in the art display case, and was excited about hearing that people rode horses to school a hundred years ago. Even as a preschooler, shown in one of Nate's comics, she loved ponies.
  • Annoyingly Repetitive Child: In "Big Nate On a Roll", Nate talks about the time he went to a Peter Pan play when he and Ellen were kids. He says it wasn't that great of an experience for him, especially since Ellen sang songs from the play every day for two years.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Just like in the strip, when Nate becomes neater in Big Nate: Flips Out he becomes so neat that he can no longer enjoy anything.
  • Big "NO!":
    • In "Strikes Again", Nate and Gina both have this reaction when they hear that they're getting paired up for a school project. This leads to the two of them glaring at each other.
    • In Big Nate: Goes for Broke, Nate, Francis, and Teddy do this upon seeing the email their parents got that tells them to send their children of P.S. 38 to Jefferson Middle School.
  • Characterization Marches On: In early strips, Chad was represented as pathetic and pitiable. In newer strips, Chad is shown to invoke a Cuteness Proximity in a way that makes him instantly popular, and he is generally treated with a lot of respect by Nate and his friends.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: In Strikes Again, after Gina miraculously makes the winning hit for her Fleeceball team and wins the trophy, Nate decides to make an editorial for his newspaper about the event, praising her for the "lucky hit". Gina happens to be in the library at the time and sees him writing it down, and is furious.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In Big Nate: On a Roll, Nate is at the mall trying to sell his comics in order to get money for a new skateboard. When he notices an employee using the building loudspeaker, Nate decides to make an announcement himself after her, to tell the whole mall to see his comics. This sends a mall cop running to the loudspeaker and lambasting him for breaking several mall rules. Then he makes him call his father and explain what happened, causing Nate to be grounded for a week.
  • The Dreaded Toilet Duty: In the first book, Nate says he's heard that students are forced to clean the toilets in the men's room in summer school. He then says he hopes this isn't true, because the toilets are "totally disgusting".
  • Elderly Ailment Rambling: Coach John is old enough to be of retirement age, and according to Nate, he often talks about his knee surgeries ("And the bone was poking through the skin!") and has shown off his kidney stone collection.
  • Feigning Healthiness: In "Big Nate Strikes Again", Randy stomps on Nate's foot, leaving him unable to join the fleeceball game. To take Gina's place in the game, Nate limps over and claims that his foot doesn't hurt anymore while he's yelping and groaning in pain. Coach Calhoun is not convinced, and he just sends Nate right back to the bleachers to sit down.
  • Fooled by the Sound: In one book, Nate, Teddy, and Francis are doing some band practice. Artur walks in and says he thought he heard a Siberian mountain goat. The indignant Nate then clarifies that it was actually him singing.
  • Gesundheit: In Big Nate Flips Out, a frustrated Francis stops to fix a crooked poster in the hallway, because according to him,
    Francis: It detracts from the room's overall feng shui.
    Nate: Feng who?
    Teddy: (whacks Nate from behind with a notebook) Gesundheit!
  • Getting Suspended Is Awesome: In "Flips Out", upon hearing the news that Nick got suspended for a week because he was caught stealing the camera and framing Francis, Nate is incredulous and believes it's a much lighter punishment that what he got, in which he started a fight with Randy, which resulted in him getting three days of detention and the principal calling his father to tell him what happened.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In Big Nate: Flips Out when Nate is hypnotized into becoming neat, it works...too well. Nate starts wearing a suit and tie to school, can't eat Cheez Doodles because he's disgusted by the cheesy powder all over them, and even blows a chance to catch Nick when he runs into a desk and must stop to clean up.
  • Gross Gum Gag: In "In the Zone", Nate sits at a table in the cafeteria and says he feels like he's got a target on his back because of all the bad things that have happened to him lately. Then Dee Dee comments that he should worry more about the gum stuck to his butt.
  • Hates Reading: In "Lives It Up", one of Nate's drawings depicts Mark Cheswick admitting that he hates reading and that he's only in the Breakfast Book Club for the snacks.
  • Holding In Laughter: In In a Class by Himself, Mr. Galvin confiscates Nate's pen and puts it in his pocket, but the ink leaks out of it and leaves a huge stain on his shirt. Nate tries not to laugh, but bursts out guffawing, and the annoyed Mr. Galvin sends him to detention afterwards.
  • Ironic Echo: In "Strikes Again", because of Nate's comics saving the project that he and Gina were working on, he decides to smugly say "You're welcome" to her right afterwards, which makes her go ballistic. And later that day, when Nate's failing fleeceball team is saved by Gina hitting a home run, the arrogant girl gets the trophy and walks right up to Nate to throw his words back in his face. Nate is not amused by this.
  • I've Heard of That What Is It?: In Flips Out, Francis tells Nate and Teddy that they need to get candids around the school to make their new yearbook interesting. Teddy is adamant and agrees with him, then sheepishly asks what a candid is.
  • Jaw Drop: In Big Nate: Lives It Up, Teddy reacts to Nate quite abruptly snapping at Breckenridge with this trope "like a wagon dumping its load".
  • Lighter and Softer: When compared to the comic strips that predated the books. In the books, Nate much less frequently falls into Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk territory, teachers and classmates are generally nicer, and the semi-frequent Parental Bonus seen in the comics is mostly absent.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In Big Nate: In the Zone, was Chad's and Nate's good luck really due to the "lucky foot", or was it all a coincidence?
  • Megaphone Gag: In Big Nate: On a Roll, Nate uses the PA system at the mall to advertise his comics, only to get caught by a mall cop. He then has to awkwardly explain to Dad what happened, and gets grounded for one week.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Or rather, never trust a preview. The sneak peeks at the end of each book are sometimes misleading as to what is going to happen in the next book. For example, the preview to Big Nate: Lives it Up made it look as if Nate would be sticking up for Breckenridge all the time, whereas in the book Breckenridge is an annoying Tagalong Kid whom Nate dislikes. The preview of Big Nate: In the Zone is probably the worst, as it shows Nate making the school honor roll and the all-star sports team, as well as Jenny falling in love with him when he gets lucky. None of those things happen in the book. Justified, since most of the time it's a tactic to hype next book in rather comedic effect.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: There's a girl with glasses and black hair who is only referred to by Nate as "That weird girl whose name I can never remember." Although in one storyline of the comic, the same girl appeared with the name Becca, and Nate had no trouble remembering her name.
  • Unfortunate Names: A new kid is called Breckenridge Puffington III. He clearly doesn't like his name, and for good reason, as he's always getting mean nicknames based on it.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Nate, of course.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Big Nate Goes for Broke, Randy steals Nate's clothes during the school dance. He was never mentioned nor seen in the book after this.