Young Nate brainstorms different animals he might draw before falling asleep.
In this junior version of Peirce’s popular Big Nate series, a gap-toothed, preschool-age Nate sees possibilities in his “brand-new box of crayons.” In silly rhyming couplets with a pleasant cadence, Nate lists and imagines animals he might draw but quickly rejects his ideas: a toad as “too bumpy!” or a cricket as “too jumpy!” On the final page, Nate fulfills the title’s wordplay and drifts off having “draw[n] a blank,” never committing to any drawing at all. Since it features a well-known character, drawn in Peirce’s familiar cartoon style, this board book will have a built-in fan base waiting to fall in love with little Big Nate. Unfortunately, the ending falls flat, making the book come across more as a series of illustrations designed around a forced joke than a worthy story of its own. Still, it’s a visual treat: Nate’s face is wonderfully expressive, and there’s a sweetly unpolished feeling about the drawings Nate imagines, which mimic a child’s spontaneity. Young readers will be drawn to the comical touches, like a “too chilly” penguin wearing a knitted wool cap or a “too inky” octopus, all in bold saturated colors. Alas, the “too silly” monkey with bananas in its ears will alienate readers familiar with the degrading, historical association of monkeys with people of African descent.
It’s slight, but it’ll be enjoyed by little siblings who have been looking for their own personal intros to Big Nate. (Board book. 2-4)