Jack Frost: The Guardians of Childhood

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Jack Frost: The Guardians of Childhood Book Poster Image
Jack Frost origin story is reassuring but confusing.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lyrical, well-crafted writing can educate the ear.

Positive Messages

There are guardians who watch over and protect you. When we feel lonely, we can remember kindness. When we help others, it helps us too.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nightlight is a true friend to the Man in the Moon and protects him against those who would harm him. In turn, the Man in the Moon watches over his old friend. Jack Frost's lonely heart warms when he decides to help and protect the children of Earth.

Violence & Scariness

There's a battle with an evil character, but it's handled in summary: "After a fierce and valiant battle, Nightlight saved the young Man in the Moon from Pitch."

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jack Frost: The Guardians of Childhood, is by prolific and popular author-illustrator William Joyce (Rolie Polie Olie), who also has his hand in film and animation, so parents may be familiar with other books that have transferred to the screen. This is the third book in his Guardians of Childhood picture book series, following The Man in the Moon and The Sandman, which introduces characters who, reassuringly, "help watch over the children of Earth." Joyce's art lends itself beautifully to this sort of mythic tale, but in this one, the story's somewhat hard to follow, relying heavily on familiarity with previous tales.

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What's the story?

In JACK FROST, William Joyce spins an origin story that borrows from another character of his in a previous book. Jack Frost was originally Nightlight, who protected his friend the Man in the Moon from the evil Pitch. After battling Pitch and saving his friend, Nightlight plunges to Earth, where he becomes frozen in time. When he awakens, he feels lonely and cold, and his "slightest breath or touch brought spirals of frost." His old friend the Man in the Moon shines down on him, helping him remember his true identity and granting him courage, and Jack vows to now protect the children of Earth

Is it any good?

The concept behind this series, that there are guardians who watch over childhood, is reassuring, and the art is William Joyce at his most mythic, but the story can be hard to follow and confusing. Joyce links Jack Frost to Nightlight, a character he introduced in a previous book who helped save the Man in the Moon. After a battle with Pitch (another character previously introduced), Nightlight was "no longer a creature of the Golden Age, but an icy boy of Earth," who becomes known as "Jackson Overland Frost." Jack is lost and lonely, and his feelings are frozen, but he's redeemed when he takes an oath to watch over the children of Earth.

The art is magical, and some of the writing soars: Jack sails "from night to day and back again in less time than it takes to sing a lullaby." But much of the story is handled as if in quick recap, with references to characters or events from previous stories flying by, and the switch from Nightlight to Jack Frost adds to the confusion. Is he Nightlight or Jack Frost, and why is the attribute we've traditionally associated with Jack Frost -- sending us snow -- seen in this story as negative, not magical?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about guardian figures. Do you ever feel there's someone or something watching over and protecting you? How do you think they help you?

  • Find the picture of Jack crouching outside the window and looking like Peter Pan. Do you think the author wants us to think of Peter Pan? Are the characters similar in any way?

  • Do you ever feel that your feelings are frozen? What helps them thaw and warm?

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