Big Nate at the Library

Nate is an 11-year-old aspiring cartoonist in "Big Nate."

Ah, Big Nate.  That wacky schoolboy who loves to draw and hates school, loves cheese doodles and has a distinct aversion to cleanliness.  His books fly off the shelf around here, so we had to do a Big Nate party, right?

You betcha!

As soon as we opened the doors, the kids poured in, and we greeted each one with a tray, piece of paper, and a pencil and then invited them to sit in the middle of the floor.  I did my whole “Rah-rah Aren’t You Excited to be Here!?” spiel to get the kids excited and then talked about who Big Nate is and what some of the common things are that we find in his books (drawing, cheese doodles, messy locker, etc.).  While we were waiting for the inevitable stragglers, I read from one of the Big Nate books and got the kids to laughing.

After a few minutes of that, I introduced my co-worker Meghan, who did a lesson on how to draw Big Nate, taken from one of the books.  The kids had a great time with that.  This is Meghan’s imitation drawing of one of the kids’ exaggerations of Big Nate’s nose.

Big Nate drawing lesson

After the drawing lesson, I explained the stations and let the kids go to whatever station interested them.  They could spend as much or as little time at a station as they liked, and could switch whenever they wanted.

  1. Crack the Code: I made a large code key from one of the codes in a Big Nate book.  Then, I created a message promoting our summer reading program and encoded it.  Copies of the code were available for cracking—this was really popular.Cracking the Code
  2. Create a Code: Papers with 26 empty circles and corresponding alphabet letters were available for creating your own code.

Creating code

3. The Scribble Game: Pulled straight from one of the books, Meghan had made 40 papers with individual scribbles on them, and we had crayons setting out.  The object is to take a scribble and turn it into a picture of something.  This is a huge amount of fun, and it was fantastic to see all the imaginative things that kids came up with.

Scribble Game 1 editScribble Game 2

After about 20 minutes of intense focus and work (it’s the quietest program at this point that I’ve ever seen!), we called the kids away from the stations for game time.  This was actually a difficult task, as they were not at all willing to leave their activities, but we didn’t want to run short of time.  We collected all the trays (they used these if there wasn’t enough table space for them to work on the activities), and the pencils.  Kids running with pencils = a bad thing.  Just ask my mother.

The Dividing Line

Cheese Doodle Relay

The kids were randomly divided into two teams by the simple expedient of putting them in a line and then sending them one after another into the different teams.  The first game was the Cheese Doodle Relay.  This is the old fashioned egg relay only with a round orange cheese puff.  Each team had a spoon and a cheese puff.  They had to take the puff in the spoon down to the other side of the room, circle a piece of duct tape on the floor, and bring it back to the next person.  If they dropped it, they had to start again.  If they dropped it and stepped on it, they just got another one (this didn’t actually happen, but we were prepared just in case.)  The spoon is passed to the next person in line until everyone has had a chance to go, and the first team to have every member run wins.

The winning team gets nothing.

That’s right.  I’m mean like that.

The kids stayed in their same teams for the next game, the Messy Locker Race.  Before the program, I took two identical large Office Depot boxes to use as lockers, and took all but one long flap off the opening of each.  I taped the other long flap to the remaining flap to create a door for the “locker.”  The remaining short flaps I taped to the back of the door to reinforce it.  I covered the door with poster board drawn to look like a locker door, complete with graffiti and dirt smears (finger smudges made with pastels).

Where is the picture of this you ask?  Um, I forgot?  I procrastinated until it was too late and the lockers were out in the dumpster?  Yeah, we’ll go with that.


After the locker was assembled, I made a list of 10 items in a large font (tape, marble, scissors, marker, feather, pen, toy car, frog, paintbrush, glue stick) and taped it to the inside of the locker door.  Then, I filled the locker with trash (and all manner of nonsense, as I explained to the kids).  There were empty cheese doodle bags, empty water bottles, crumpled newspaper and trash paper, gift books, popsicle sticks—anything I could cull out of our supply closet.  But, only one each of the ten listed items was in each locker, and they were dispersed throughout the trash.  Each team was given an empty backpack and one kid on each team chosen as the runner.  Two of my coworkers manned the lockers.  The lockers were set on chairs, one in each corner of the room (be sure to hold the locker door shut!).  On my signal, the locker doors were opened, the trash poured out, and the shouting began.  The kids scrambled like mad through the trash to find the designated items.  Each item they found was placed in the backpack.  When all ten had been found, the runner had to race to me.  I took the items out and counted them to make sure that all ten correct items had been found.  If not, then they had to go back and try again.  The first team with all 10 correct items brought to me won.

I realize that all of that might sound a bit complicated, but it’s really not.  And, it was a LOT of fun.  The kids absolutely loved this game.  Getting to yell and scramble through trash, throwing it everywhere—it was a winner.

Serendipitously, one team won the first game, and the other team won the second game, so everyone went home a winner.  To finish, we gave the kids evaluations and when they were done, they turned them in for a fortune cookie (again, from a book), and a brand new pencil.

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5 Responses to Big Nate at the Library

  1. Pingback: Book Character Parties: A Round Up | Jbrary

  2. mrsshaia says:

    Awesome! I’m going to steal this. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kim O. says:

    I recreated some of your activities for the Big Nate Party at our library. The kids LOVED the Messy Locker Race! I had some of our teens make four lockers out of boxes as you described. They were really cute and the kids enjoyed doing this in teams. To your wonderful suggestions, I added a make-a-comic area, a draw-a-pic-from-a-squiggle table, and a cheese doodle on a spoon relay (this went on for fifteen minutes when I told them there was no prize and they could go as many times as they liked). Thank you for your awesome ideas! Very helpful!

  4. A. Kartman says:

    Love this whole thing! I might be stealing it also. Thanks for sharing! I usually work with Pre-K but I am also in charge of school agers and I am always looking to blogs for great ideas like this! Thanks!

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