Nate the Great (series)

written by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
illustrated by Marc Simont

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat's Nate the Great series
illustrated by Marc Simont

Book review by Sarah Denslow

Ages 5-8

Picture book detective boy

Pass the pancakes and put on your thinking caps for this classic early reading mystery by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Meet Nate, pancake lover and mystery solver extraordinaire. He’s self-titled “the great,” and takes his mysteries very seriously.

For this first adventure, Nate is summoned by his friend Annie to find her lost dog picture. He’s disappointed by the lack of diamonds and secret passages on this case, but Annie does have pancakes at her house.

Nate takes down the facts of the case, and poses theories. After searching the back yard, interviewing Annie’s friend Rosamond, and eating some more pancakes, Nate solves the mystery. To celebrate, he and Annie have leftover pancakes.

The great thing about Nate the Great is that the mystery is solved not by luck, but by actual reasoning that a young reader can follow. Nate may be self-important, but he does do good detective work.

cropped cover from Nate the Great and the Lost List

There is a kind of dry wit in Sharmat’s writing of Nate. Nate takes the self-important tones of a great detective, despite being a kid looking for a lost picture. Lacking the self-awareness to notice, though, he periodically makes grandiose statements such as “I, Nate the Great, think of everything.”

Children may miss the various references to detectives of old (for instance, Nate “likes to work alone”), but will still find this mystery hard to resist.

Nate has solved numerous mysteries in his extensive series of books. My personal favorite is Nate the Great Goes Undercover. You may also want to check out Nate The Great And The Halloween Hunt.

Read more of Sarah's reviews.

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