Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!
But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.
Now’s his chance to explore the city, wow the casting director, out-sing the competition, and hop the last bus home before anyone notices he’s gone. No big deal, right? But exciting as it is, the Big Apple can be big trouble. And if Nate isn’t careful, he’ll be lucky if he makes it through Times Square, much less the audition. [Synopsis]
Over-The-Top Audacity … in the Best Possible Way!
Let me just say, I love Nate! Oh, and his best friend Libby too. Because without Libby, Nate never would have known about the ET: The Musical casting call, much less attempted a daring escape to New York City for the audition. I know I’m biased, but here’s some relatively impartial insights…
What’s so great about Nate: A voice that’s fresh, funny, with a spot on middle grade. Nate has all the anxieties and self-doubts of any misfit. But what makes him so adorkable is his how he embraces his quirks, and motors right through his fears with improv that’s nothing short of genius. And then there’s Nate and Libby’s swear words, which are as unique as they are endearing. They curse with the titles of (real!) legendary Broadway musical flops, such as Dance of the Vampires. Who knew?
Reality with a dash of wacky: The Plan Libby and Nate concoct to get him into the audition in New York City is realistic and level-headed. The amusing flaws in their scheme spring from a ten-year-old’s naive view of the world. Still, things manage to work out for Nate. Like how he talks his way into purchasing a bus ticket—when he’s obviously under age—using his older brother’s ID. His brother Anthony is 16, at least ten inches taller, and has the face of an international model, which Nate so is not. Admittedly, the coverage of a local stabbing on the television monitor in the ticket booth was a saving distraction for the ticket salesperson, what with the gory graphics, eyewitnesses, and a crying woman holding a baseball bat. Still, Nate’s anxiety driven improv is ultimately what does the trick. From there on out, the wackiness spins into high gear… But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Laugh-out-loud hilarity: The entire book is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. But I have to admit that I was literally reduced to laughing so hard I was sobbing, my head in my hands, by Nate’s audition performance. Nate claims his *special talent* is walking on his knees. So when the casting director asks him to perform his trick, Nate flips into manic mode … and then some…
…I’m circling their table, channeling my Fiddler on the Roof bottle dancing, flying by like we’re at the racetrack, the team’s little greyhound…
I’d share more, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Just be sure to have a box of tissues handy. You’ll need them. I sure did!
Home is where the heart is: They say that comedy has to have an element of pathos to make it funny. In Nate’s story, the pathos comes from his disfunctional family. His parents are on the verge of divorce, his all-star brother hides beer in his closet, and then there’s his mother’s estranged sister. The very aunt who comes to Nate’s rescue (thanks to Libby) as a legal guardian, a requirement to get into the audition. The broken dynamics of Nate’s family, and how his wacky adventure helps put them on the mend, makes you care—and root—for Nate all the more.
I highly recommend Better Nate Than Ever for most all middle grade boys and girls. Though I’d warn them to keep an eye on their parents. Because they’ll be sneaking this book away to read too.
About the Author
Tim Federle is the author of over seven hundred emails. Born in beautiful San Francisco and raised in character building Pittsburgh, Tim discovered show tunes in elementary school, prompting bullies to discover Tim. Armed with only grit (and his father’s credit card), Tim fled to New York City as a teenager. He has since worn a Tina Turner wig at the Super Bowl, a polar bear suit at Radio City, and a big fat grin in five Broadway shows. Better Nate Than Ever is Tim’s first novel. Soon to be followed by the sequel, Five, Six, Seven NATE! You can find Tim on Twitter @TimFederle. [Jacketflap bio]