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Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King: The Guardians, Book 1
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King is a fanciful fantasy about the origins of certain characters from mythology and fairy tales, focusing on the young man who would become Santa Claus. In this first installment of William Joyce's chapter book series The Guardians, Nicholas starts off a scoundrel but becomes a hero. Good battles evil, but the level of tension never rises too high for its target readership. Children in the book experience terrible nightmares (which are not described). Two likeable supporting characters seem to be killed, but they are quickly resuscitated. The 3-D computer-animated fantasy adventure film Rise of the Guardians, is based on books in both The Guardians and The Guardians of Childhood, Joyce's picture book series.
What's the story?
Nicholas St. North is a thief, a rascal and a scoundrel, but when the town of Santoff Claussen is threatened by the Nightmare King and his minions, Nicholas learns how to become a hero. The other defenders of the town include the great wizard Ombric Shalazar, a young girl named Katherine, a robotic djinni and a mysterious, spectral boy. Together, they fight to save their friends and families and learn the power of belief.
Is it any good?
This book purports to tell the origin story of the young man who would become Santa Claus; unfortunately, Nicholas is rarely the center of the narrative's attention. Narrated from a peculiarly detached point of view, the story feels busy without being completely engaging. The near-omniscient point-of-view shifts willy-nilly between a wide range of supporting -- and less interesting -- characters.
Many plot threads will undoubtedly be taken up in the series' subsequent volumes, but, for the moment, the sequence, for all its whimsy and invention, feels a little sketchy and disjointed. William Joyce's black-and-white illustrations add visual magic and a sense of coherence to the story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about where holiday traditions come from and how they have changed through the ages. Have you heard other origin stories of Santa Claus?
Why are nightmares so scary? What can you do to take away some of their intensity?
- Authors: William Joyce, Laura Geringer
- Illustrator: William Joyce
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Book Characters, Holidays
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Atheneum
- Publication date: October 4, 2011
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 7 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.