Nellie Nutgraf: The Double-Best Reporter in History: A Hot Story, is a fun filled and whimsical journey of the beginning of Nellie Nutgraf, a newspaper reporter. The story is spread over three different books, available exclusively on a website called getepic.com. They are written by Tom Angleberger, who is best known for his Origami Yoda series.
The opening lines of the story are “Welcome to the least educational series of all time. Nellie Nutgraf is a newspaper reporter who covers the biggest stories in history. But it’s not like the history that they teach in school. It’s a wacky version where everything happens at once, including a lot of things that didn’t happen.”
That opening line gives great foreshadowing into what the rest of the books will be. It features appearances by Paul Bunyon, Bigfoot, Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin. Although the story itself does seem scattered and random, as I read through it, I found that the plot was still continuous and unified. These first three books followed Nellie from her birth through her first big story. The book itself is loosely (very loosely) based on the life of Nellie Bly, one of the first investigative journalists in history.
There were several things about the story that stood out to me as being outstanding.
- The overall fun and goofy nature of the story grabbed my attention and kept me engaged in the plot the entire time. Even as an adult, I still enjoyed reading it.
- The story features real characters from history. Although Angleberger is very upfront and honest about the inaccuracy of their part in the story, the end of the books have sections that guide the reader to actual biographies about those people.
- Many of the characters are minorities and female. (Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm was the first African American female in Congress) I love seeing prominent roles for these demographics in children’s literature.
- Nellie suffers a failure in the middle of the story. However, she responds to it very well and is more determined than ever to succeed afterwards.
- I really enjoyed the illustrations and how they were laid out in the story
- These specific books on getepic.com are read-aloud books. The words are highlighted as the performer reads them. It is easy to follow along and professionally performed.
As a former teacher, I always seem to see the teaching points in a book when I read it.
- The story itself is written as a tall tale with things like Nellie getting blasted four miles into the air. Even her birth is similar to those of Paul Bunyon, or Pecos Bill, or Calamity Jane. This book would work well when teaching through a unit on tall tales or myths. It would be fun to compare a modern tall tale to a classic one.
- As a tall tale based on a real historical figure, this book could also be used in conjunction with a true biography on Nellie Bly to compare her in the book to her in real life. Based on that comparison, have the students try to write an accurate biography for someone like Paul Bunyan, Hercules, or John Henry.
- Have the students try to write a tall tale about themselves or a friend. Have them illustrate how they would look in a tall tale.
- Have the students read Chapter One of the first book. Have them list three things in that chapter that tell them that this is a tall tale and not historically accurate.
Parenting/ Teaching Discussion Points
Another thing I like to do when I read is to find things that I can use as discussion points for my own children. These can also be used as classroom discussion questions for students as well.
- Nellie fails at her first try to write a story. How does she respond to that? What does this tell you about your own life?
- Nellie doesn’t seem to let anything in life hold her down, i.e. age, gender, etc. What would you do with your life if you didn’t consider anything in your life too big to overcome?
- The first story that Nellie was assigned was seemingly very unimportant and boring. How did Nellie approach that? Was it useful later in her story?
Overall, I must say that I truly enjoyed the entire Nellie Nutgraf series. I was entertained throughout and came away with several teaching ideas and parenting discussion questions. I hope that Tom Angleberger is not done writing this series and I look forward to reading more from him.
As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read the blog. I hope that you enjoyed it and came away with something meaningful. You can follow the blog by clicking on the link in the lower right hand corner of your screen.