Nate often uses his skateboard to get from one place to another more quickly, and when he is trying to get from yet another detention to his Timber Scouts meeting, he has a typical Nate run in with a lady and her poodle (who looks like "somebody glued cotton balls to a weasel"!), and his skateboard shoots away from him, off a bridge and into a creek. He's late for his scout meeting, so he has to start over to make 26 meetings in a row in order to earn his badge. (Of course, this was meeting 25!) He not only finds out that Artur is now part of the group, but that there is a fund raising campaign of selling "warm fuzzy" posters. Nate is ready to ignore this until he finds out that the top prize is a customized skateboard. He's determined to win it, even selling five units, only to find out that Artur has sold twenty. Artur sets up a booth at a school event, and is so cute that Nate feels no one can turn him down. Nate comes up with the idea to earn money doing other chores, which he is better at, and using the money to buy a quantity of posters himself. This isn't as easy as he thinks it will be, but he is dedicated to the idea of a new skateboard. When the final tally comes in, he and Artur are tied. Who will win the toss of a coin?
In Big Nate Goes for Broke (probably my favorite book of the series), Nate is determined to put together a cartooning club, asking Mr. Rosa, the art teacher, for help. Mr. Rosa is glad to, even bringing a teacher from the rival Jefferson Middle School to share her success with a cartooning group at that school. Both teachers remark that there are no girls in the group, and challenge the boys to find some female members. In trying to recruit DeeDee, Nate inadvertently asks her to the school dance, for which she has drawn the posters. He is afraid that this will go poorly, but DeeDee not only tells people they are there as friends, but saves the day with a cool grass skirt costume for Nate when someone steals his clothes. There's still a disaster-- the sprinkler system malfunctions, and the school has to be evacuated out into the cold, snowy winter. Not only that, but P.S. 38 needs some repairs, and the students are sent to have classes in trailers... at Jefferson Middle School. Nate is determined to prove P.S. 38's superiority, and he and DeeDee have some success entering a local writing contest, but their biggest success is in a snow sculpting contest, where the Bobcats' creative spirit wins the day.
My favorite part of these is the characters. Nate misguided enthusiasm is so typical of middle school students that it makes me laugh and cringe! He always has a good idea, but his attempts at carrying them out sometimes are less than perfect. Artur is his nemesis, especially since he's going out with Nate's crush, Jenny, but Artur is so perfect and kind that it's hard to hate him. DeeDee is overly dramatic, but also a big help to Nate when he is in a pinch, and it's good to see them be friends. I also love the teachers-- secretary and romance novel reading detention monitor Ms. Czerwicki; former Timber Scout and boring science teacher, Mr. Galvin; and the ever evil Ms. Godfrey, who always keeps Nate under control. My only regret is that School Picture Guy doesn't make an appearance in either of these!
While elementary school readers pick these up because of the cartoons, the relationships portrayed are spot on with what middle school students experience. There's some light romance, awkward friendships, fellow students who pose mild danger, and that well meaning kid that it's just kind of embarrassing to be friends with, Chad. Nate is embarrassed by his father, annoyed by his sister, and has an unlikely ally in the dysfunctional neighbor dog, Spitsy. All of these elements, combined with the pictures, make reading Peirce's books a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Since these books are quick reads, having two volumes combined makes perfect sense. Check out all eight novels for readers who enjoy Richards' Stu Truly, Acampora's Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face, and other funny, fast paced middle grade fiction.