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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in the “Big Nate” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Sixth-grader Nate Wright is an aspiring cartoonist. He hangs out with his best friends, Francis and Teddy, and has a crush on a girl named Jenny. The greatest thorns in his side are a bully named Randy and a smug, brainy girl named Gina who is obsessed with her academic performance. The book alternates between cartoon drawings and a traditional narrative.

History teacher Mrs. Godfrey announces that students will be paired up to write a research paper about a great American. Much to Nate’s chagrin, he’s paired with Gina. Gina is upset as well, fearing Nate will ruin her GPA.

Nate tries to distract himself by focusing on the fact that he’s been made captain of one of the intramural fleeceball teams. The kids call the intramural activities SPOFFs, which stands for Sports Played Only For Fun. Nate and his friends are still extremely competitive. They long to claim the Spoffy, a trophy made of tinfoil wrapped around a Dr. Pepper can.

Nate exchanges trash talk with another team captain, a bully named Randy. Nate opens his locker, allowing all of his trash to flood out on top of Randy. The principal sees Randy in the trash pile, thinks it’s his and tells him to clean it up. Nate walks away casually, knowing Randy will be looking for ways to get revenge.

Nate hides out in the library. When the librarian demands that he be doing something besides sitting around, he tells her about his project with Gina on Ben Franklin. He reluctantly begins to read the books the librarian gives him, and he’s surprised to discover Ben Franklin is interesting. He draws a number of comics that depict Franklin inventing or discovering various things.

When Nate is late for the team captain’s meeting, the coach chooses players for him. He’s happy with most of the picks, until he sees Gina’s name. At home, he tries to come up with the perfect team name. When Gina calls to see if Nate is doing any research yet, Nate’s dad and teenage sister, Ellen, razz him about getting calls from a girl. After extensive brainstorming, Nate comes up with the team name Psycho Dogs. He’s just about to tell the coach when Coach informs him Gina already submitted the team name. Nate looks on the schedule and sees they are listed as the Kuddle Kittens. Nate decides to pay Gina back by dumping a tray of egg salad on her in the cafeteria. He accidentally dumps it on Jenny instead.

Not only does Gina prove to be a horrible ball player, but she’s also brought a talking stuffed cat to be their mascot. Nate starts to yell at Gina for her many errors on the field when the coach reminds him that everyone makes mistakes. He tells Nate that a good captain encourages his team. Nate prepares to make his final swing at the game, but Gina distracts him by turning on the talking mascot. He strikes out. At dinner, Dad tries to find out what’s wrong. Nate excuses himself because he doesn’t want to be lectured.

Later, Gina appears at his house. He’s just stepped out of the shower and is in his boxers. Dad, thrilled that Nate has a female friend, bustles off to make lemonade for them. Gina pulls out her gigantic notebook and demands they compare notes on what they’ve researched so far. She’s not convinced he has even started. Nate shows her his cartoons about major events in Franklin’s life. She scoffs and says he will not be putting a comic book in her report. Nate and Gina make a deal: Gina will write the report for both of them so she can maintain her grade. In exchange, she will stop playing on the fleeceball team.

Inspired by Franklin, Nate creates his own newspaper called Poor Nate’s Almanack. He has a table set up in the hallway to sell copies. When the principal shuts him down, Nate and Teddy pick up the table to put it away. Randy, having just stolen someone’s notebook, is running down the hall and slams into the table. He starts to blame Nate, but the teacher who witnessed the scene says that by running, Randy gave himself a bloody nose. Randy walks off muttering threats toward Nate.

The history reports are due. Gina turns theirs in, but Mrs. Godfrey tells them they failed to read the instructions properly. They were supposed to include visual aids they had created themselves. As Gina starts to panic over their failing grade, Nate runs to get his Ben Franklin comic. Mrs. Godfrey is impressed, and Gina is angry that Nate’s cartoons have saved their grade.

The Kuddle Kittens earn some victories as Gina makes excuses to the coach about why she can’t play. During the final game against Randy’s team, Nate gets hurt. The coach says they need another player if they want to finish the game, and Gina is pulled off the bleachers. To everyone’s surprise, she hits a home run and the Kuddle Kittens win the trophy. Nate is disgruntled, leaving readers to assume this feud will continue.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

When Nate publishes his own newspaper, one of his friends suggests he add a horoscope section.

Authority Roles

Nate and his sister live with their dad. He tries to encourage Nate to talk to him about school and other problems. Dad also teases Nate about Gina. There is no mention of a mom. Mrs. Godfrey praises Nate’s creativity when she sees his Ben Franklin cartoons. The coach urges Nate to be an encouraging leader, rather than being critical, as team captain.

Profanity/Violence

The word butt appears a couple of times.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Nate tells Gina his phone battery is dying before he hangs up on her. He tells his dad he’s working hard on his Ben Franklin report when Gina is actually doing the work. Gina lies to the coach about why she can’t play in the ball games.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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