The other book Nate dug up, in addition to What’s Up in 3rd Grade, is ABC’s of Grade 3, by Nate. Clearly this is a book that was dictated to the students. There’s no way that Nate at eight years old would have chosen “division” for the letter D. He would have picked Dumbo. There has always been, however, an urge from Nate’s aides to overhelp him, to dictate when he should create on his own, even if he struggles. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.
The face on the cover is the flip side of the face I described at the end of “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Child.” This Nate seems to me hopelessly disconnected. There’s something off about the eyes and mouth. Kids can take lousy pictures, I know, but this one captures Nate as he mostly was, not comfortable, not part of the moment.
The book itself is an alphabet book of school topics, but what’s interesting is Nate has been writing updates, little bits of clarification and improvement. like George Lucas tinkering with Star Wars, Nate has no problem messing up the original document. In “T=Time…,” Nate has helpfully put “Ex: 7:00.” In “K=Keyboard…,” Nate has expanded his definition to include “or A,S,D,F and so on..” There are some pure Nate bits of writing – the movies Brave, Wreck-It Ralph and The Avengers get a modern-day mention.
One of the best things about the last few years has been Nate’s searching into his own past and looking for answers and explanations. This attachment to his younger self, a self he couldn’t make clear and express at the time, is a huge part of his daily thought. It’s a fantastic thing to witness, Nate, now a young man, trying to make sense of what made things so difficult back then. I can’t but help thinking that his updated words in ABC’s of Grade 3 are his way of reaching out to that little boy and extending a bit of help from the future.