Nate the Great and the Big Sniff – Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat, illustrated by Martha Weston

I can’t decide if I was attracted to the mystery genre as a child, or if my mother was attracted to the idea of a sleuth-y daughter.  For whatever reason, I was introduced to the mystery genre very early, and one of the mystery series I used to read was Nate the Great.

Nate the Great was great for a few reasons.  One, was that he has a rhyming name, and even though I didn’t really like rhymes, I appreciated it in the case of Nate.  The second reason is that he actually would sit and try to figure things out, and not just run around looking for “clues” until he discovered/it was accidentally revealed that it was Old Man Riley this whole time (gratuitous Scooby reference).  The third is that Nate the Great didn’t have any special abilities (like Cam Jansen) or surprisingly broad general knowledge (like Encyclopedia Brown).  He’s just a kid using his normal powers of reasoning.  And finally, Nate the Great isn’t trying to catch bad guys or solve big problems.  He’s just trying to figure out the everyday mysteries…which brings me to Nate the Great and the Big Sniff.

In The Big Sniff, Nate the Great goes to the department store to buy a fancy dog bowl for his best friend and fellow sleuth, Sludge.  When he comes out, Sludge is gone!  Instead of sitting down and bawling, calling an adult, or generally starting a fuss, our intrepid hero sets out to find Sludge.  Hot on the trail, thanks to clues from his friends (who, coincidentally, are also at the department store), Nate looks all over the store in vain until he finally sits down, thinks, and realizes where Sludge must be.  Lo and behold, Sludge is there (no, I won’t tell you where), and can I just say that I was surprised?  But I shouldn’t have been, because the clues were all there.  With a bit of knowledge about Nate and Sludge, I should have been able to figure out where Sludge was hiding out, and why.

I should probably make a quick note about the illustrations.  I like them!  Martha Weston does not illustrate all of the Nate the Great books – they were originally illustrated by Marc Simont.  However, she does illustrate “in the style of” Marc Simont, and I like it.  Smooth lines, bright colours, movement and action, and expressive faces.  I especially like the simple way that Fang is drawn – a huge dog with large teeth, small beady eyes, and vaguely German Sheppard colouring, portrayed with a few quick lines and some varied shading.

So yes: a simple read, with simple logic, but complicated enough to actually be mysterious!  I’m looking forward to checking the other Nate the Great books out of the library and giving them a read.

Reading Ages: 5-7

Thing I Like in Particular: The recurring “side characters” of Annie and her massive scary dog, Fang, and witchy Rosamund and her creepy cat.

Rating: B+.  It would maybe even be an A-.  I have to read the other Nate the Great books and see which ones are classic must-haves, and which are “just” good, solid, reads.


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