100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Endangered Series #6: Nate the Great

Popularity comes, popularity goes. As librarians we’re always balancing between what will circulate like crazy and what we need to have in the collection. And we’re not the Library of Congress – we can’t (and shouldn’t) keep everything.

An endangered series is one that appears to be waning in terms of popularity. But popularity isn’t everything. Should it stay, or should it go? Or think of it this way – if you were starting a library today, would this series make the cut? Let’s discuss.

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat; illustrated by Marc Simont

Beginning in 1972, Nate the Great is an enduring series that is part of library collections across the country.

The Case for Keeping:

It’s one of the most well known series in children’s literature. It serves as a great introduction to the mystery genre.

The Case for Not:

There are other mystery series that would appeal to the same sort of reader (A-Z Mysteries, Cam Jansen, Encyclopedia Brown, etc.)


Although the series briefly veered off course in the 80s…

(This had to be the 80s, right?)

…for as long as it’s been around (30 years and counting), Nate the Great has received surprisingly few different cover treatments. While original illustrator (and Caldecott Medal winner) Marc Simont is no longer with us, the current illustrators Jody Wheeler and Martha Weston stay true to the original style.

My Verdict:

Keeping. Nate the Great stills circulates in our school library. And while there are other series that serve a similar purpose, the beginning chapter book format is under-served as a whole.


Endangered Series #1: The Boxcar Children

Endangered Series #2: The Hardy Boys

Endangered Series #3: American Girl

Endangered Series #4: The Baby Sitter’s Club

Endangered Series #5: The Bailey School Kids

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I have to say John Lavelle who narrates the audiobooks is AWESOME! His Rosamond is hilariously perfect. If the book ever does go away, those audiobooks should stay forever…

    • Alyson Whatcott says

      Thanks for points ng our the audio books! I’m always on the look out for new books for our listening center.

  2. Brooke Shirts says

    I LOVE Nate the Great — however — the plots almost always involve Nate reading a handwritten note, which is usually depicted as an illustration with CURSIVE handwriting. Many kids today have problems reading cursive, and especially emerging chapter book readers. (I haven’t seen those newer editions, though. Perhaps they have been changed?)