Thursday, November 29, 2012

Middlegrade Epicness: The Guardians: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King

So, I'm a children's bookseller. And since I've started as one I've been trying to get more involved in the section. I've been reading some picture books at work (Fletcher and the Falling Leaves is one of the cutest books ever. This Moose Belongs to Me is also awesome) and things of the like. But the most exciting thing was that it reminded me of how much I absolutely love William Joyce.

William Joyce did The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and The Guardians book. His stories are beautiful and just a little dark, not to mention the illustrations are stunning. So I bought the first of his The Guardians books, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King. But it's me, so I didn't read it right away. I kept saying I would read it after this or after that. It was on the list just in an undetermined locations.

That is until I saw Rise of the Guardians. My post is going to talk about the movie and the first book side by side.
I love that movie. It's amazing. So good. It's a big ball of wonder and magic and hope and joy. Everything that could and should be overly saccharine but somehow manages not to be. The Sandman is my favorite. I adore him. So much. I mean, come on, he uses whips (though Pitch's weapon is pretty awesome too)!

It has this perfect balance of darkness and light that makes the story so much richer. Even knowing that things were going to work out the darkness and the despair were so much more believable. It was sharper somehow.

I knew the books and the movie were companions to one another but not based off each other. But when I saw the movie and loved it I wanted to start the book as soon as I could.

But I was so close to finishing NaNoWriMo I made myself wait until I had.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King takes place a great deal before Rise of the Guardians. It introduced the characters (aside from The Man in the Moon who has his own picture book). Nicholas will become Santa Clause. Right now he's a swashbuckling, adventuring thief, who learns that he has a knack for magic.

Initially it took some time for me to switch gears to middlegrade. It was startling for me that I could read for about two hours and finish the book. So much happens so fast and I whipped through it. And being so aware of the age group as I was the darkness of the book startled me just a little. Which, I realize is completely ridiculous.

It's a different sort of darkness, darker even than the movie. What the movie did a really good job of is showing the scale of the damage that Pitch intends to do. They're always showing the globe and kids in different parts of the world. The book doesn't do that as well. But in terms of darkness the advantage that the book has is that Nicholas is not his jolly persona so he is darker. Not like crazy and murderous or anything, just different. The book has people being eaten by bears and believed back into existence and almost whole races snuffed out and boys living inside the dark heart of Pitch for agonizing centuries.

It amazes me how Joyce can use so few words and just launch into the epic tale and somehow still have it be totally believable. I've read books where authors take chapters and chapters to set up their world and it's not half as convincing as this is. I think it's because he does something very similar to what Maggie Stiefvater does. In his world things just are. There doesn't need to be a big long explanation or history of every little thing explaining how it came to be. All we need to know is that this is just how things work.

We of course get the history of the man in the moon, but this is important plot wise and definitely wouldn't help make the story be more convincingly real. Perhaps his take on this attitude is because children are generally more willing to suspend disbelief. Though, I'm not entirely sure what that says about me and my enjoyment.

This is an honestly good action story. It has rapid animals and mutinous metal creatures, swords of different shapes I could easily see it expanded and longer but I feel like I am going to have the same problem with Joyce as I do with Tamora Pierce, in that there is never enough of him or his words.

Not to mention the illustrations are absolutely stunning. Just beautiful. In one review of the movie that I read they said the movie didn't do Joyce's art work justice. I will say that the movie is wonderful and the graphics are beautiful but it is missing a bit of the whimsy of Joyce's art. My necessity it's a little more hard edged and less smudgy and dreamy. I understand why, though.

I love how much Joyce takes these stories and grand mythologies and makes them his own and makes them unrelated to religion and culturally different. It's such a brilliant idea and an awesome take on childhood and the magic of belief at that point in your life.  It really is brilliant.

So I gave Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King a rating of Massively Epic.

I do so wish it had been longer. *sigh* YA has spoiled me.

I am still reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making (oi with the long titles) and it's really fun book it just takes a little extra concentration and I've been too tired to struggle through it. I may keep reading other things around it or maybe put it down. I have so much else I really want to read.

We'll see.

Sorry for the delay. (I saw the movie again today!) I will try to be better.

-A.M.Y-A

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