Saturday, August 27, 2022

Cartoon Saturday- Big Nate: Destined for Awesomeness

Peirce, Lincoln (creator). Big Nate: Destined for Awesomeness
Based on three television programs written by Mitch Watson, Elliot Owen, and Sarah Allen
August 30th 2022 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Like Rusu's The Xtreme Xploits of the Xplosive Xmas (The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants TV), or Ball's Clifford the Big Red Dog: The Movie (Graphic Novel) this is a graphic novel based on the television adaptation of characters from print sources. Think that one through so we can go on. 

It is very exciting that Peirce's Big Nate has been adapted for an animated series through Paramount Plus and Nickelodeon. It's been a long time coming, and well deserved. The comic strip premiered in 1991, and the first novel, Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, came out in 2010. Nate is an exuberant and well-meaning tween who constantly finds himself in trouble, but he is a far more enjoyable character than other Notebook Novel heroes. 

Destined for Awesomeness presents three episodes of the television program, which are all illustrated with stills from the program, although there are also some some pages that look like they came straight out of one of Peirce's Notebook Novels, which is a nice touch. The program looks to be animated using CGI, so has that very round, somewhat misty feel to the style. Standard cartoon balloons are superimposed on the stills.

In the first vignette, Nate is on his fourth detention, and it's only a Tuesday. His friends bring up a school legend of Brad Gunter, a student who set records for the number of detentions; when he hit five in a singel week, he disappeared and was never seen again. Of course, Mrs. Godfrey is on the lookout for any misbehaving on Nate's part. When a new student, with whom Principal Nichols seems especially enamored, needs a guide, Nate volunteers to show Bentley around. Bentley's family is rich, and the principal hopes the family will donate a drone to the school if Bentley is happy. However, the new kid ends up being adept at pranks, and tries to lure Nate in even though he is trying to be on his best behavior. Will Nate be able to stay out of trouble and avoid being "gunted"?

Nate's birthday is coming up, and coincides with the preparations his sister Ellen is making for being the "Husky Queen" for the local Ididnotarod dog race. (There were copyright issues with the Iditarod.) He has a birthday party, but the gifts are not all that exciting; he gets a book DeeDee wants to read, a savings bond from Francis, and a stamp collection from an elderly aunt. His dad sees his disappointment and offers his credit card for use on anything "up to $50". Nate, of course, pushes this. He and his friends have a $49 sundae, spend the same amount on a go cart session, adopt a number of dogs from a shelter, each of which is under $50 but together cause the card to be denied and run up $6,000 in charges. DeeDee has the bright idea to crowdsource funding by giving a concert, but somehow the concert costs almost as much to produce as they gather. Luckily, one of Nate's gifts is more valuable than it first appeared and gets him out of trouble.

In the final episode, Ellen has a fear of enclosed spaces and is helped by her father to overcome this; she learns why her father always has to go back into the house right before they leave to go anywhere. Nate ends up working on a project with Jenny but learns that she has a cat; he has been raised to think that cats suck out little boys' souls. I am not going to argue with the logic on this one. 

The dialog is a bit over the top and doesn't seem as much like the comic strips or novels; Bentley is discovered to be a "criminally insane tween", the crowd sourcing raises a ridiculous amount of money, and we find that Nate's father has a fear of strange bathrooms-- after Ellen puts a camera in the bathroom and spies on him via computer. Otherwise, these are solid stories that fit neatly into the Big Nate canon, and I'm sure that my students will enjoy the program. They'll know how to find it; I don't even know where to start, since the only streaming service I have is Amazon Prime. I have to say that the book itself reminded me of the 1990s R. L. Stine TV episode books of Goosebumps!

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