When last we saw our hero, Nate Foster, at the conclusion of Better Nate Than Ever, he was receiving incredible news that after his daring, not-sanctioned-by-his-parents journey from the boring Pittsburgh suburb of Janksburg to the sparkle-bright-metropolis of New York City, to audition for his big Broadway break in ET: The Musical, has ended in his ACTUALLY BEING CAST. In the chorus. But also as the understudy for the title character!
This sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, begins with Natey Greaty preparing to be a for-real child actor. He’s packing up and moving to NYC to live with his Aunt Heidi, and rehearse for the show of a lifetime, ET: The Musical. What could possibly go wrong?
How about, the fact that Nate doesn’t really know how to tap dance? Or that he’s not really the understudy for ET, but the understudy for the understudy, Asella, a charismatic veteran of the stage? Or that the first time director doesn’t appear to really know what he’s doing, and seems to be caught up in a never-ending power struggle with the choreographer? Or that Nate’s having trouble not noticing all the really cute boys in the cast? (Like, seriously, he knows where they are and what they’re doing at all times during the show.) Or that he’s surprisingly homesick, at least for his best friend Libby, though he’s a bit at a loss about how much of his new life he feels comfortable sharing with her?
Young theater fans will be obsessed with this book, as it actually shows what goes on behind the scenes of a Broadway musical. For instance, I didn’t know there’s always a set of “preview” performances, before a show opens for the public, that some musicals don’t make it past!
In terms of delineation of theme, plot, character, and setting, Nate is basically a perfectly written novel. But it’s a long shot for the Newbery medal, based on its early-in-the-year publication date, and the fact that fun, funny books rarely win awards. And Nate is REALLY fun and REALLY funny. But fun and funny don’t equate to not important. This book’s sensitive treatment of Nate’s coming of age, and questioning of identity, make it a truly great piece of literature.
Tess also told me I had to put this book trailer in here somewhere.
Today's guest reviewer is Tess Goldwasser, Youth Services Librarian and Early Childhood Community Liaison, St. Mary's County Library, Maryland. Tess also writes about picture books at Kid's Book Blog.