By Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Illustrated by Marc Simont
Marjorie Weinman Sharmat has published over one hundred and thirty books, though her Nate the Great books, with twenty-six in the series, are the most well known. Her descriptive text and direct dialogue are peppered with a dry humor. With the exception of one single word—Nate sports rubbers, instead of boots, in the rain—this forty-year old story holds timeless appeal.
This is the fifth book illustrated by Marc Simont to be reviewed in this blog. Like his art in A Tree is Nice, the spreads alternate between color and black and white. Simont uses vivid pinks and bold yellows in one spread and warm grays and lush blacks in the next. No matter the medium, Simont’s art is always expressive and energetic, pleasing and comfortable.
“My name is Nate the Great. I am a detective. I work alone.”
Using classic hard-boiled detective language, Nate tells readers about his latest case: helping his friend Annie find a lost picture.
He’d just finished a breakfast of pancakes (Nate loves pancakes) when she called and enlisted his help. He donned his trench coat and Sherlock Holmes style hat and headed straight out to Annie’s, but not before leaving a note for his mother.
When he arrived at Annie’s she was just sitting down to a pancake breakfast, so Nate joined her. They discussed the missing picture. Using bright yellow paint, Annie had painted a picture of her dog Fang the day before and left it out to dry, and then it was gone.
After breakfast, Nate searched Annie’s room. He was already sure of one thing, Annie liked yellow.
He asked her who had seen the picture.
“My friend Rosamond has seen it, and my brother Harry. And Fang.”
Nate started with Fang. Fang was big, with big teeth. Nate watched him eat, then he watched him bury a bone. Nate had an idea that maybe Fang took the picture and buried it, but after two hours of digging in the backyard Nate and Annie only found rocks, worms, bones and ants.
It was time for more pancakes.
“Cold pancakes are almost as good as hot pancakes.”
Nate and Annie when to Rosamond’s house next. Rosamond was dubious of Nate’s detective status so she asked him to solve a case of her own: find her missing cat, Super Hex. Rosamond had four cats, all named Hex, and a house full of cat paraphernalia. Nate sat down and Big Hex jumped onto his lap. Nate wanted to leave immediately; he stood up to go and stepped on something long and black. There was a loud meow. He’d stepped on the tail of Super Hex, who’d been hiding under the chair. The case inside a case had been solved. Nate and Annie left.
Nate knew Rosamond did not take the picture, she clearly only liked cats. They headed back to Annie’s house to question to her brother Harry. Like Annie, Harry liked to paint; the walls of his room were covered in his art. There was painting of a red house, one of a red clown, and one of a red tree. There was also a painting of a three-headed monster but that one was orange.
“I, Nate the Great, have found your picture.”
Annie was confused; Nate explained. All of Harry’s paintings were done in red paint, except the monster. Annie’s picture of Fang was yellow. When you mix yellow and red you get orange. Harry had painted his red, three-headed monster over Annie’s yellow picture of Fang. The case was solved.
‘“I don’t know how to thank you,” Annie said.”’
“I do,” Nate said. “Are there any pancakes left?”
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