In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Better Nate Than Ever: voyage of discovery

Dear Annie,

My literary travelers left the Lake District this morning, very satisfied with a week of exploring, hiking, reading scenes from Rosemary Sutcliff's The Shield Ring aloud on location, and adjusting to driving on the left.  I am so impressed with Lizzie and Bob's joy in that special book.

I'm preparing to hit the road to join those two in Spain, but in the meantime I've been listening to a wonderful middle-grade book involving a pilgrimage of a different sort, to your home town.  

Better Nate Than Ever
by Tim Federle is the story of a small town boy who sneaks off to New York to audition for a lead role in E.T.: The Musical.  The book has all the elements of a Broadway plot: boy flees disapproving family, is overwhelmed and wowed by The Big Apple, suffers insult and disappointment at auditions, meets sympathetic friends, and ultimately (in his own way) triumphs.  It's also the story of a theater-loving boy who's on his way to figuring out that he's gay but hasn't quite gotten there yet.  In the meantime, he has become experienced at handling constant anti-gay harassment from his classmates.
(My sexuality, by the way, is off-topic and unrelated.  I am undecided.  I am a freshman at the College of Sexuality and I have undecided my major and frankly don't want to declare anything other than "Hey, jerks, I'm thirteen, leave me alone.  Macaroni and cheese is still my favorite food -- how would I know who I want to hook up with?")
Nate has spent his life using humor to get through the tough times, but discovering there's a world where kids like him aren't automatically beaten up, and where men express affection to each other in public clearly has a big emotional impact.  The publisher described the book at being for a 9 to 13 year-old audience, although I would like to think that the string of anti-gay slurs in the book (homo, faggot, fairy etc) might be a surprise to a third-grader.

His personality is effervescent.  I listened to the audio book, read by Tim Federle, the author.  He has a list of theater and bartending credits that qualify him as having been a serious contender in the Broadway world.  The tone of the audio book was perfect for his character.  I know that should be obvious, because after all he wrote it, but I've listened to a lot of author-read books that were pretty deadly.  The recording won an Odyssey Honor from the American Library Association this year: that's the award for children's audio books.

Better Nate Than Ever also won an honor from ALA's Stonewall Book Award -- recognizing books writing about GLBT issues.  That reminder made me go back and look at our flurry of entries on gay-themed books for younger children.  That was back in the summer of 2012 -- almost two years ago!  And while we're on the topic of time flying, we passed entry # 600 a few weeks back without even so much as a celebratory glass of champagne.  Onward!



1 comment:

  1. I've been hearing plenty of positive comments about Nate - I think it's time to add this one to my ever growing TBR pile!