Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (Guardians of Childhood, book 1)
By William Joyce and Laura Geringer
Published 2011 by Atheneum
I picked this up recently because I received an ARC of the second book at Midwinter. However, after finishing this one, I discovered that my ARC was actually only a sampler. Color me disappointed. Anyway, onto the review.
This is the story of Santa - before he was Santa. He was just Nicholas St. North and he battled the Nightmare King. This is the first chapter book in a new series that Joyce launched in preparation for an animated feature film to be released in 2013. The premise of the series is that there exist Guardians of Childhood - Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Man in the Moon, etc. - who guard Earth's children from the Nightmare King and his evil minions. They were making a huge deal about this at ALA Annual last summer, but then the first two books were released (a picture book came out prior to this chapter book) without much fanfare. I was very intrigued by the story this series is going to tell and I liked the picture book, but this entry fell short for me. I had hoped to be swept away - I think Joyce is one of the most imaginative people workings in children's media today. Instead, I felt bored. This is a pretty short book, but even then, it was difficult for me to keep my interest in it. The Santa connection is really not apparent at all, so I think that will be lost on children. I didn't feel as if the characters were tremendously well-developed. I fear that this whole project is perhaps a little too ambitious. I'll be interested to see how the rest of it fares, including the film.