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Book Review: Nugget on the Flight Deck By Patricia Newman


New York, Walker and Company, 2009. Illustrated by Aaron Zenz. Hardback Picture Book, 40 pages, with Target Age: 4-8 years.


Reviewed by Deena While


“Welcome aboard, Nugget…I’ll bet you’ve never been aboard a carrier before…”


October 13, 2009 (La Mesa) -- San Diego may be the nation’s 9th largest city, but it is still a Navy town at heart. The graceful passage of San Diego’s homeport aircraft carriers down the harbor channel, past Ballast Point and out to sea is one of our area’s most awe-inspiring sights. And any one of those ships could have a nugget aboard.  Navy and Marine jargon is often heard in our community. In Navy-speak, a nugget is a new pilot on his first tour of duty. Patricia Newman’s just-released book is a fun-filled introduction to the basics of carrier operations, centered on the heart-warming story of one particular nugget.


Nugget on the Flight Deck gives all readers - young and old - a first-hand look at life on an aircraft carrier. We visit the living quarters and the planes stored in the hangars, or “basement,” below. We sort out the colorful teams of specialists preparing planes for flight and experience the rush as the “shooter” unleashes the catapult that sends them skyward. The artwork brings it all to life, while the author’s research allows us to follow the story in the actual jargon used on the ship.


Children will enjoy bantering with their new-found lingo, while gaining an appreciation for the relationships necessary to make these floating cities tick. In the process, they’ll pick up clues for recognizing some of the characters in Grandpa’s sea stories – to their mutual delight.


The writing and the art work complement one another effectively. They are realistic and challenging, but offer readers new experiences, solid lessons and excitement on every page. The book is infused with the author’s enthusiasm and her own obvious admiration for the carrier’s people and their purpose.


Many parents and educators already know Patricia Newman through her popular monthly column “Who wrote that?” in California Kids! This is Newman’s second leveled book, following on the success of Jingle the Brass. The author’s other work continues to appear in a variety of publications, including National Geographic Explorer, Boy’s Quest, Appleseeds and Storyworks.


In Nugget, Newman moves the story briskly. The title character is soon hurled from the flight deck with his new teammates. His vocabulary growth keeps pace. New terms – the lingo of the ship – are defined in the margins on each page. The book is beautifully designed to promote learning.


The volume also includes some terrific reference materials, including sources and suggestions for further reading. The immediate fun is in the tables with the aviator’s alphabet, the color-coded uniforms and carrier facts. If you have ever wondered what all those different colored tee-shirts are about, you’ll find it here. Do you know what a carrier weighs? (Answer: the same as 12,000 school buses, about 60,000 tons.)


Military families will appreciate the author’s sympathetic treatment of a well-known rite of passage. But Nugget’s appeal extends to all residents of the city. San Diego’s skies are abuzz with Navy and Marine aircraft every day. From their backyards, their school yards and vantage points throughout the county, children watch future nuggets training for their first tour. This nugget’s story will make those sightings much more meaningful.


The book is a natural match with our community and is destined to become a favorite for San Diego readers of all ages – whether they have “been aboard a carrier before,” or not. Bravo Zulu to the author. Mission accomplished.

Patricia Newman will visit La Mesa to give a reading from Nugget on the Flight Deck at Readers Inc. on Friday, October 16, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This is a wonderful opportunity to talk with the author and get a signed copy of Nugget. Ms. Newman’s delightful railroading tale Jingle the Brass will also be available. Or, bring your own copy in and have it inscribed!


Deena While created and launched Readers, Inc., the children’s bookstore in the La Mesa Village, in late 2008. The store’s bookshelves and its staff quickly earned reputations as essential resources for East County children, their parents, teachers and librarians. Visit with them at


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