Saturday, December 28, 2013

Five, Six, Seven, Nate by Tim Federle

293 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, January 21, 2014. 9781442495890. (Review from arc courtesy of the author.)

This sequel/ companion to Better Nate Than Ever picks up on the eve of Nate's return to New York City to live with his Aunt Heidi while understudying the role of E.T. in E.T.: The Musical. He and his bff, Libby are singing show tunes and trying to write his bio for the Playbill. Libby shares some last minute advice and Nate impulsively does something, which surprises them both. (And me, as well.) Intermittently, Nate's dad bangs on the door to yell at Nate. Except for leaving Libby, Nate's not sorry to be leaving home. Nate is obsessed with Broadway. He knows when all the shows opened and closed, which were flops and can sing all the show tunes. One can see how Nate's a bit of an odd-man out having to grow up in a football-obsessed family in Pittsburgh. 

Once he arrives in the rehearsal space, he is deliriously happy to learn that there are three other shows rehearsing in the building as well. Then, he enters E.T., and is dismayed to find that everyone there seems to already know each other. Of course, he already knows someone, the show's star, Jordan Rylance, but Jordan and his mommy are staring daggers at him from across the room. Nate is further dismayed to learn that he is actually understudy to the understudy. That understudy is a tiny lady named Asella with twenty-five years in the business and no fondness for children. Then Nate is even further dismayed to learn that he needs to tap dance. Nate can't tap and finds himself reporting to rehearsals early for remedial classes. What is this? Middle school?

Well, sorta. There are cliques and rivalries and backstabbing. Nate finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time several hilarious times and that gets him the wrong kind of attention. The times that he comes up with a brilliant idea and should get the right kind of attention, there is no applause. And the director can't get his name right. But Nate, my favorite optimist, puts a funny spin on each situation, tosses off hysterical asides, as well as dead on observations of adults behaving badly, and soldiers on.

Nate peppers his chronicles of the five weeks to first preview with all sorts of Broadway trivia, which should tickle readers who are theater geeks and entertain/ educate those who are not. As funny as this book is, the tone is more serious as Nate reveals how truly sad his home situation is. Aunt Heidi really is Nate's port in the storm. 

I read the final chapters blinking away tears but there were also many poignant moments throughout the book that made me wish I could reach into the story and give Nate a hug. 

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! can stand alone, but Nate is such a great character, I recommend that you start his journey at Better Nate Than Ever. I also hope that Nate shares more of his journey in a third book.

My students in grades five and six are in for a treat in late January as my school is one of Tim Federle's stops on his book tour. As soon as we get back to school, I will be busy booktalking and sharing snippets of videos, here and here. Visit the author's website here. Finally, teachers looking for a fun read-aloud that is also filled with discussion starters, there's a link to a Curriculum Guide linked to Common Core Standards here

This is a 2014 favorite. Yes, I know I read it in 2013, but you can't till 2014.

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