Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (The Guardians Series #1) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Don't miss The Rise of the Guardians, soon to be a major motion picture in theaters November 2012.

Before SANTA was SANTA, he was North, Nicholas St. North—a daredevil swordsman whose prowess with double scimitars was legendary. Like any swashbuckling young warrior, North seeks treasure and adventure, leading him to the fiercely guarded village of Santoff Claussen, said to be home to the greatest treasure in all the East, and to an even ...
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Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (The Guardians Series #1)

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Overview

Don't miss The Rise of the Guardians, soon to be a major motion picture in theaters November 2012.

Before SANTA was SANTA, he was North, Nicholas St. North—a daredevil swordsman whose prowess with double scimitars was legendary. Like any swashbuckling young warrior, North seeks treasure and adventure, leading him to the fiercely guarded village of Santoff Claussen, said to be home to the greatest treasure in all the East, and to an even greater wizard, Ombric Shalazar. But when North arrives, legends of riches have given way to terrors of epic proportions! North must decide whether to seek his fortune…or save the village.

When our rebellious hero gets sucked into the chaos (literally), the fight becomes very personal. The Nightmare King and his evil Fearlings are ruling the night, owning the shadows, and sending waves of fear through all of Santoff Clausen. For North, this is a battle worth fighting...and, he’s not alone. There are five other Guardians out there. He only has to find them in time.
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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—A meteor strikes Earth and from the giant crater it creates, a tree grows. Ombirc, a wise, ancient wizard, tends it and recognizes its magic. Soon the tree is large enough to house not only Ombirc, but a whole community of curious dreamers who live in harmony with nature and with one another. All is well in Ombirc's small, idyllic village until Pitch, the Nightmare King, is released from his prison to spread his evil across the land and infiltrate Santoff Claussen. Enter the heroes, Nicholas St. North, a wandering bandit-turned-good-guy, and Young Tsar Lunar, last member of the Lunanoffs and the protector of dreams. Together with Ombric and Katherine, a young resident of Santoff Claussen, these forces defeat The Nightmare King. This is an imaginative adventure with more than its share of fantastical beings and occurrences. In fact, there may be so many strange people, places, and things that struggling readers may find themselves distracted from the story. Some of the language is also a bit awkward. That being said, the authors do a great job of creating excitement and intrigue, and for those who love to wend their way through extraordinary tales, this novel will not disappoint. The illustrations are wonderful charcoal, graphite, and digital renderings that convey all the magic and fear contained within the story. Fans of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Peter and the Starcatchers (Hyperion, 2004) may want to give this book a try.—Mary Beth Rassulo, Ridgefield Library, CT
Publishers Weekly
Launching the Guardians series, a chapter book counterpart to Joyce's Guardians of Childhood picture book series, this beguiling clash of good vs. evil brings together several legendary figures, updated by Joyce. Key players include Ombric, a wizard who teaches the children of the village of Santoff Claussen how to make anything they imagine come true; Nicholas St. North, a reformed bandit who becomes Ombric's apprentice; Nightlight, a "spectral boy" who is guardian to Tsar Lunar, ruler of the moon; and Katherine, a brave foundling whose dream foreshadows what North will become: "a powerful figure of unending mirth, mystery, and magic, who lived in a city surrounded by snow." All join forces to defeat Pitch, the King of Nightmares (called "Boogeyman" by children), a mission that culminates in a dramatic battle in the Himalayas. With agility and flair, Joyce and Geringer build layer upon layer of fantasy and provide rich background information about the characters, while leaving much to readers' imagination—and much still to be revealed. As in the narrative, shadow and light play enticing roles in Joyce's b&w illustrations. Ages 7–11. Agent: Michael Siegel & Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King stole my son! The book came into our house, and the boy disappeared, for hours. Eventually he returned, but it seems that his imagination never came all the way back. A part of him will always remain tangled in the deep, dark, dazzling, insouciant mythology of this latest and most wonderful of William Joyce’s worlds.”

—Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

"The authors do a great job of creating excitement and intrigue, and for those who love to wend their way through extraordinary tales, this novel will not disappoint. The illustrations are wonderful charcoal, graphite, and digital renderings that convey all the magic and fear contained within the story. Fans of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s Peter and the Starcatchers (Hyperion, 2004) may want to give this book a try."

SLJ, January 2012

"Joyce’s detailed illustrations capture the multitude of fantastical settings, weapons, and creatures populating this fast-paced tale."

BOOKLIST, November 1, 2011

"William Joyce’s magnificently creative illustrations, rendered in charcoal, graphite, and digital media have an old world feel that extends the text. In the world of fantasy, this book rises above the rest."

Library Media Connection, March/April 2012

Kirkus Reviews

Streaks of preciousness mar, or at least mark, an "origins" tale framed as a monumental struggle between the King of Nightmares and a Cossack bandit plainly destined for a later career bringing gifts to children on Christmas Eve.

Escaping 1,000 years of captivity, Pitch, the Nightmare King, has sent hordes of Fearlings out to darken the dreams of children worldwide and attacked the happy Siberian town of Santoff Claussen. Orchestrated by Tsar Lunar, the Man in the Moon, a small company sets out to gather the first of five ancient relics that will help defeat Pitch. The band is made up of kindly old wizard Ombric Shalazar (last survivor of Atlantis and inventor of "time, gravity, and bouncing balls!"); his ward, the intrepid young orphan Katherine; a mysterious elfin creature; and, last but not least, Nicholas St. North—an exuberant former bandit chieftain turned inventor who is "no longer a thief of treasures but a buccaneer of fun" thanks to Ombric's tutelage in magic and science. With help from an army of yetis led by the Lunar Lamas (who are quaintly described as "inscrutable" and also look identical in the accompanying illustration), Pitch is fended off in a great battle in the Himalayas, the relic is recovered and it's off to further episodes. Many further episodes, as this is just the opening novel in an ambitious multimedia project dubbed "The Guardians of Childhood." (The Man in the Moon, 2011, is the companion opening picture book in the project.)

A quick read, with plenty of rococo weapons, characters and creatures (notably reindeer). (Fantasy. 9-11)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442435759
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Series: William Joyce's Guardians Series , #1
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 12,034
  • Age range: 7 - 11 Years
  • File size: 17 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

William Joyce
William Joyce does a lot of stuff—films, apps, Olympic curling—but children’s books are his true bailiwick (The Numberlys, The Man in the Moon, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, Toothiana, and the #1 New York Times bestselling The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is also an Academy Award–winning short film, to name a few). He lives with his family in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Laura Geringer is the author of many highly acclaimed books for children and young adults, including the celebrated A Three Hat Day illustrated by Arnold Lobel; Myth Men, a popular series of graphic novels based on the classic Greek myths; and Sign of the Qin, Book l of the Outlaws of Moonshadow Marsh series, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; and Boom, Boom Go Away illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. She serves on the National Advisory Board of First Book, a charity that has distributed over seventy million books to children in need. Laura lives in New York City.

William Joyce does a lot of stuff—films, apps, Olympic curling—but children’s books are his true bailiwick (The Numberlys, The Man in the Moon, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, Toothiana, and the #1 New York Times bestselling The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is also an Academy Award–winning short film, to name a few). He lives with his family in Shreveport, Louisiana.

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

In Which The Great War
Is Renewed

THE BATTLE OF THE Nightmare King began on a moonlit night long ago. In the quiet town of Tangle-wood, a small boy and his smaller sister woke with a start. Like most children (and some adults at one time or another), they were afraid of the dark. They each slowly sat up in bed, clutching their covers around themselves like a shield. Too fearful to rise and light a candle, the boy pushed aside the curtains and peered out the window, looking for the only other light to be seen during these long-ago nights—the Moon. It was there, full and bright.

At that moment a young moonbeam shot down from the sky and through the window. Like all beams, it had a mission: Protectthe children.

The moonbeam glowed its very hardest, which seemed to comfort the two. One, then the other, breathed a sleepy sigh and lay back down. In a few moments they were once again asleep. The moonbeam scanned the room. All was safe. There was nothing there but shadows. But the beam sensed something beyond the room, beyond the cabin. Something, somewhere, wasn’t right. The beam ricocheted off the small glass mirror above the children’s chest of drawers and out the window.

It flashed through the village, then into the surrounding forest of pine and hemlock, flickering from icicle to icicle. Startling bats and surprising owls, it followed the old snow-covered Indian trail to the darkest part of the deep woods—a place the settlers feared and rarely ventured. Like a searchlight, the beam shot out into the darkness until it found a cave.

Strange rocks, curling like melted wax, framed the yawning mouth of the cavern. The cave was thick with shadows that seemed to breathe like living things. In all its travels, the beam had never seen anything so ominous.

The moonbeam wavered and then—not sure if it was being brave or foolish—dropped down, following the shadows into the pit below.

The darkness seemed to go on and on forever. Finally, the moonbeam came to a stagnant pool. Black water reflected its glow, dimly lighting the cave. And there, in the center of the pool, stood a giant figure. He was denser and even darker than the shadows that surrounded him. Still as a statue, he wore a long cloak as inky as an oil seep. The moonbeam scanned the figure slowly, cautiously. When it reached his eyes, they opened! The figure was awake!

The shadows began writhing about at the feet of the figure, their low drone filling the air. They grew, crashing against the cave walls like waves against a ragged jetty. But they weren’t shadows at all! They were creatures—creatures that no child or Moon messenger had seen for centuries. And the moon-beam knew at once: It was surrounded by Fearlings and Nightmare Men—slaves of the Nightmare King!

The moonbeam paled and faltered. Perhaps it should have given up and fl ed back to the Moon. If it had, this story would never have been told. But the moonbeam did not flee. Inching closer, it realized that the phantom figure was the one all moon-beams had been taught to watch for: It was Pitch, the King of Nightmares! He had been pierced through the heart, a diamond-like dagger holding him pinned against a mound of ebony marble. Warily, the moon-beam crept closer still, grazing against the weapon’s crystal hilt.

But light does not go around crystal, it goes through it, and suddenly, the beam was sucked into the blade! Twisting from side to side, the moonbeam was pulled on a jagged course to the blade’s tip. It was trapped, suspended in Pitch’s frozen, glassy heart. Pitch’s chest began to glow from within as the moonbeam ricocheted about in a frenzy, desperate to escape. It was terrifyingly cold there—colder even than the darkest regions of space. But the moonbeam was not alone. There, just beyond the edge of the blade, in the farthest recesses of the phantom figure’s heart, it could see the spectral shape of a tiny elfin child curled tight. A boy? Hesitantly, the beam illuminated the child’s head.

That little ray of light was all it took; the spectral boy began to grow. He burst forth from Pitch’s chest joyfully, free at last! The moonbeam was thrown from side to side as the boy, with one quick tug, wrenched the radiant dagger from the cold heart that had trapped him. Bearing the blade aloft, with the moon-beam still caught inside lighting the way, the boy shot like a rocket straight up and out of the cursed cave and into the starry night. By the time his feet hit the snowy ground, he looked every bit like a real boy, if a real boy could be carved out of mist and light and miraculously brought to life.

Freed from the dagger’s impaling, Pitch began to grow as well, rising like a living tower of coal. Swelling to a monstrous size, he followed the boy’s illuminated trail to the surface.

Looking wildly up at the sky, Pitch sniffed the air in ecstasy. With one shrug and a toss of his midnight cloak, he blotted out the Moon. He crouched down and dug his fingers into the earth, letting the scents of the surrounding forest reach into his searching brain. He was ravenous, overwhelmed by a fiery hunger that burned him from within.

Breathing deeply, he trolled the winter wind for the prize he coveted, the tender meal he had craved even beyond freedom all those endless years of imprisonment down below: the good dreams of innocent children. He would turn those dreams into nightmares—every last one—till every child on Earth lived in terror. For that’s how Pitch intended to exact his revenge upon all those who had dared imprison him!

As glorious thoughts of revenge filled Pitch’s mind, they ignited around him a cloud of sulfurous black. The cloud seeped upward from the seemingly bottomless pit of the cave. From that vapor, hurtling in all directions at once, came the shadow creatures— the Fearlings and Nightmare Men—thousands of them, horrendously shrieking. Like giant bats, they glided over the forest and beyond, invading the dreams of all who slept nearby.

By now the moonbeam was frantic. It had found Pitch! The Evil One! It had to return to the Moon and report back to Tsar Lunar! But it remembered the sleeping children back in their cabin. What if the Fearlings went after them? How could the moonbeam help if it was still trapped inside the diamond dagger? The beam bucked and strained, guiding the boy, who skittered along, light as air, back through the town, back to the small children’s window. They skidded to a stop.

The spectral boy pulled himself up onto the windowsill. As he peered in at the children, somewhere in his heart an ancient memory or remembrance stirred of a sleeping baby and a distant lullaby. But the memory dissolved almost as soon as it appeared, leaving him feeling deeply and unexpectedly sad.

Something dark flashed past the boy and into the children’s room. Suddenly, two Fearlings hovered and twisted in midair above the sleeping brother and sister who turned restlessly, clutching at their quilts. Instinctually, the spectral boy leaped off the windowsill and snatched a broken tree branch from the ground, attaching the diamond dagger to its end. He aimed his gleaming weapon at the window.

The Fearlings shrunk back from the light, but they did not disappear. So, for the second time that evening, the moonbeam glowed with all its might. The brightness was now too much for the Fearlings. With a low moan, they twined and curled, then vanished, as if they had never been there at all.

The children rolled over and nestled into their pillows with a smile.

And after seeing those smiles, the spectral boy laughed.

Up on the Moon, however, there was no cause for laughter. Tsar Lunar—the one we call the Man in the Moon—was on high alert. Something was amiss. Each night he sent thousands of moonbeams down to Earth. And each night they returned and made their reports. If they were still bright, all was well. But if they were darkened or tarnished from their travels, Tsar Lunar would know that the children of Earth needed his help.

For a millennium all had been well and the moon-beams had returned as brightly as they had ventured forth. But now, one moonbeam had not returned.

And for the first time in a very long time, Tsar Lunar felt an ancient dread.

© 2011 William Joyce

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Reading Group Guide

A Teacher's Guide and Reading Group Guide to the Battle of the Nightmare King

A Teacher's Guide to Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (part of the Guardians series)

by William Joyce and Laura Geringer

Discussion Questions

• What does Ombric mean when he says, "To understand pretending is to conquer all barriers of time and space?" Is there any practical use for this saying in our own society? If so, who would use it and why? If not, why not?
• Ombric wanted a village that seemed impossible. Discuss with the students their image of an impossible village. After the discussion, have the students write a story about their village and all the impossible things that happen there. Have the students illustrate a scene from their story and then share their story with the class.
• What are some characteristics of a wizard? How does Ombric compare to the list?
• What are nightmares? Have the students ever experienced one? What did they do to stop the nightmare? How do they make themselves feel safe at night? Does anyone use a night-light?
• One of the major themes in this story is good versus bad. Is there any such thing as absolute good or absolute bad? Are people born good or bad? Is goodness or badness something they learn?
• Pitch wants to capture the good dreams of innocent children and turn them into nightmares. How does one protect oneself from having a nightmare?
• What was your first impression of Ombric the Wizard upon reading the description of him and his talents, such as turning lead into gold, being able to walk through walls, his invention of time, and being able to stop time? Of all of Ombric's fantastical talents, which one would you wish to possess and why?
• Santoff Claussen was an enlightened village where no one would laugh at anyone who dreamed of what was possible. Why was this so important to Ombric? Do places such as Santoff Claussen exist? Was the author suggesting Santoff Claussen was a village free of bullies?
• Santoff Claussen has several defenses to protect the village from outsiders who wish to do harm or to steal their treasures. Discuss the various ways Ombric attempted to protect his village from harm.
• It was learned that Pitch was originally a hero during the Golden Age because he captured the Fearlings and their ilk. He even valiantly guarded the prison. He becomes possessed by the evil shadows. In reality, is it possible for someone who is good to become evil? Is it possible for the same person to be redeemed? Are there various shades of good and evil?
• Pitch's strength was dependent upon the amount of light around him. The darker it was, the more evil he became. In the daylight he was forced to retreat. What is it about light that affects Pitch?
• How does the spectral boy interact with Pitch? What is it about him that makes Pitch despise him more than everyone else?
• What is so special about laughter?
• Is the Spirit of the Forest really a good spirit? By turning visitors whom she deems unkind and ignoble into stone to protect the village, she then prevents them from ever being able to change their ways. Is this spirit implying that if one has an impure heart it can never be redeemed? What about Pitch, who had a pure heart but turned evil: Will he never be able to return to his old self? Are people either good or bad? Can a person be both good and bad at the same time?
• Does anyone see the irony of the Fearlings whispering for a breath of fresh air when there is no air in space?
• Prince Lunar has never had a nightmare. Since he has never had a nightmare, why does it mean so much to him to protect children from having any? Does he know what he is trying to protect them from?
• If one doesn't experience unpleasant situations and events, how can one understand when things are good? Is it necessary to have the bad so one can understand the good?
• When the children of Santoff Claussen were surrounded by the shadows, William attempted to scare them away by increasing the amount of light. Why didn't his action work?
• Ombric provided cookies, chocolate, and warm cocoa to comfort the frightened children. Why do you think he chose these particular items? What do you do to calm yourself down after experiencing a scary event?
• North has a special place in his heart for children. He feels a need to protect them. How has North's own childhood affected his perception of his role as protector?
• When the village's bear attacked the children, Pitch had already trapped the parents in their sleep so they could not come to the children's defense. What fantastical method do you believe Pitch used to trap the parents?
• After Ombric was eaten by the bear and his staff broken, Katherine remembered Ombric's first lesson. What was that lesson? Discuss other stories that also use this lesson.
• North's horse Petrov saves North from the hypnotic effects of the Spirit of the Forest. Petrov rears up and slams his hooves against the ground. This action draws North's attention from the treasure and towards the screams from the village children. Only those with a pure heart are able to enter the village. Who had the pure heart—Petrov, North, or both? Can animals have pure hearts?
• How did the Man in the Moon know North would respond to the story dream the moonbeam transmitted to North while he was sleeping? Why was North chosen to assist the villagers of Santoff Claussen?
• Is there any significance to the resurrection of the giant bear with his wounds gone and his fur as white as snow?
• How could Katherine's steady kindness to North be his greatest comfort and yet at the same time be his worst torment?
• There are many different types of friendships in this story. Have the students discuss the friendships between Ombric and the Man in the Moon, Katherine and Ombric, Katherine and North, Pitch and the Fearlings, spectral boy and Moonbeam, and North and Petrov. What does friendship mean? Are there any similarities between these relationships?
• Discuss the spectral boy and his simplified understanding of good and bad. Riding clouds was good but Fearlings and Nightmare Men were bad. Did his age and his life experiences have anything to do with his understanding of good and bad?
• Discuss with the students which character in the story experienced the most growth in character? Have the students provide examples from the story to support their statements.
• Ombric's telling of The Story of The Golden Age was printed on black paper with white lettering. What do you believe was the reason for this change?
• North has problems making friends. Friendship requires trust. Why was it so hard for North to trust anyone? Who was able to befriend him? How did this person succeed?
• Ombric states, "Knowledge without wisdom can get a bit messy." He was referring to North's attempts at experiments in the lab. What does he mean by this statement? Is it safe or foolhardy to plunge into an experiment without knowing what the results will be?
• North's ability to entertain the children of the village with his stories worked as a tonic for the frightened children. Besides the soothing effect of the stories, was there any other purpose for the storytelling? What is the purpose of stories?
• When the djinni asked, "What is your command?" what would you ask it to do? Is there a downside to having one's own djinni? What would it be?
• The djinni misinterprets North's saying of "Good night, Djinni" as a command. Think of other examples of everyday sayings that the djinni might misinterpret.
• Compare and contrast the djinni to robots with artificial intelligence that exist today.
• A compass will always point to north. What is the difference between North's present to Katherine and a regular compass?
• When Katherine set out to rescue North and Ombric, what methods and items did she use?
• The strength of friendship between Katherine and the spectral boy was very strong. He willingly risked his life to keep her safe. Katherine willingly risked her life to save North and Ombric. Compare the strength of friendship to the control of fear. Which one is stronger?
• Katherine makes a drawing of North and depicts him as grander than life and as having an important place in the world. North is surprised by this depiction of himself. Does Katherine's drawing change North's perception of himself and what he will do with his life?
• Katherine's drawing of North, which was placed inside djinni, commands a strong power. Why can't Pitch, inside djinni's body, harm North?
• Who is the spectral boy, and what is his real name? Who has been waiting for his appearance?
• What is the significance of the gong that the Luna Lumas own?
• The weapons the Abominable Snowmen used to fight Pitch and the Fearlings were forged from the dust of fallen stars. What is so important about the composition of these weapons?
• Ombric says, "A daydream properly utilized can be the most powerful force in the universe. One need only dream of freedom to begin to break the spell of enslavement." Compare this belief in this story to events in our world where the dream of freedom helped escape enslavement.
• Katherine, who collects stories, wishes to ride on the back of a Great Snow Goose from the Himalayas. What other character in literature also enjoys riding on the back of a goose?

Activities

• Ombric was the last survivor of the Lost City of Atlantis. Have the students research the story of the Lost City of Atlantis.
• Moonbeams are very important in this story. Have the students research moonbeams on the Internet or in their school library. How fast do moonbeams travel? Do they really return to the moon after making their way to earth?
• Using a chart have the students write down the different characteristics of North, Pitch, Ombric, Katherine, and spectral boy. Do any of them have only good characteristics? Do any of them have only bad characteristics? Are some characteristics that are good in one person bad in another person?
• Some cultures, such as the Native American culture, have devices called dream catchers, which are supposed to catch all bad dreams before they reach children. Have the students research dream catchers. They are easy to make. Have the students make dream catchers for themselves.
• Have the students choose a fantastical talent they wish they had. Have them create a story about themselves using this talent. Would the student use the talent for something good for society, for his/her self-gain, just for fun, or for something evil?
• Pitch's heart is described as "cold, colder than the darkest regions of space." Have the students research various temperatures of space. What is the coldest temperature they find?
• There are studies concerning people's emotions depending upon the amount of light they are exposed to. SAD, seasonal affective disorder, causes depression due to the lack of light. Have the students research what can be done to counteract the effects of this disorder.
• Laughter is a useful tool to counteract many problems. Research what effects laughter has on the human body.
• Have the students research hand shadows. Allow them to make shadow creatures using an overhead projector or a large flashlight. Have the students recreate the scene where the children are surrounded by the shadows, using shadow puppets on sticks and a light source. See if the students can make only the Fearlings shadow puppets get larger and scarier and not the children puppets.
• During the Golden Age, criminals were kept in a lead prison where they were entombed in eternal darkness until they because little more than shadows. Research the history of prisons. Have prisons changed over the years? Has the philosophy of prisons changed over the years? Are all prisoners doomed to the fate of becoming shadows?
• Life on the moon has its ups and downs, thanks to the benefit of little gravity. Research gravity and have the students do experiments to understand the concept of gravity. Research the effects of no gravity on astronauts.
• Have the students imagine they are invited to visit the Man in the Moon. Discuss with the class what things they might do on the moon. Have the students each write a story about their adventures on the moon, including meeting the Man in the Moon, the moonboots, and the moonmice. Share the students' stories with their classmates.

Visit TheGuardiansofChildhoodBooks.com for downloadable activities, videos, and more.

Guide prepared by Lynn Dobson, librarian at East Brookfield Elementary School, East Brookfield, MA.

This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

A Reading Group Guide to Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (part of the Guardians series)

by William Joyce and Laura Geringer

Discussion Questions

1. What does Ombric mean when he says, "To understand pretending is to conquer all barriers of time and space?" Is there any practical use for this saying in our own society? If so, who would use it and why? If not, why not?

2. Ombric wanted a village that seemed impossible. Discuss with the group their image of an impossible village.

3. What are some characteristics of a wizard? How does Ombric compare to the list?

4. What are nightmares? Have your group members ever experienced one? What did they do to stop the nightmare? How do they make themselves feel safe at night? Does anyone use a night-light?

5. One of the major themes in this story is good versus bad. Is there any such thing as absolute good or absolute bad? Are people born good or bad? Is goodness or badness something they learn?

6. Pitch wants to capture the good dreams of innocent children and turn them into nightmares. How does one protect oneself from having a nightmare?

7. What was your first impression of Ombric the Wizard upon reading the description of him and his talents, such as turning lead into gold, being able to walk through walls, his invention of time, and being able to stop time? Of all of Ombric's fantastical talents, which one would you wish to possess and why?

8. Santoff Claussen was an enlightened village where no one would laugh at anyone who dreamed of what was possible. Why was this so important to Ombric? Do places such as Santoff Claussen exist? Was the author suggesting Santoff Claussen was a village free of bullies?

9. Santoff Claussen has several defenses to protect the village from outsiders who wish to do harm or to steal their treasures. Discuss the various ways Ombric attempted to protect his village from harm.

10. It was learned that Pitch was originally a hero during the Golden Age because he captured the Fearlings and their ilk. He even valiantly guarded the prison. He becomes possessed by the evil shadows. In reality, is it possible for someone who is good to become evil? Is it possible for the same person to be redeemed? Are there various shades of good and evil?

11. Pitch's strength was dependent upon the amount of light around him. The darker it was, the more evil he became. In the daylight he was forced to retreat. What is it about light that affects Pitch?

12. How does the spectral boy interact with Pitch? What is it about him that makes Pitch despise him more than everyone else?

13. What is so special about laughter?

14. Is the Spirit of the Forest really a good spirit? By turning visitors whom she deems unkind and ignoble into stone to protect the village, she then prevents them from ever being able to change their ways. Is this spirit implying that if one has an impure heart it can never be redeemed? What about Pitch, who had a pure heart but turned evil: Will he never be able to return to his old self? Are people either good or bad? Can a person be both good and bad at the same time?

15. Does anyone see the irony of the Fearlings whispering for a breath of fresh air when there is no air in space?

16. Prince Lunar has never had a nightmare. Since he has never had a nightmare, why does it mean so much to him to protect children from having any? Does he know what he is trying to protect them from?

17. If one doesn't experience unpleasant situations and events, how can one understand when things are good? Is it necessary to have the bad so one can understand the good?

18. When the children of Santoff Claussen were surrounded by the shadows, William attempted to scare them away by increasing the amount of light. Why didn't his action work?

19. Ombric provided cookies, chocolate, and warm cocoa to comfort the frightened children. Why do you think he chose these particular items? What do you do to calm yourself down after experiencing a scary event?

20. North has a special place in his heart for children. He feels a need to protect them. How has North's own childhood affected his perception of his role as protector?

21. When the village's bear attacked the children, Pitch had already trapped the parents in their sleep so they could not come to the children's defense. What fantastical method do you believe Pitch used to trap the parents?

22. After Ombric was eaten by the bear and his staff broken, Katherine remembered Ombric's first lesson. What was that lesson? Discuss other stories that also use this lesson.

23. North's horse Petrov saves North from the hypnotic effects of the Spirit of the Forest. Petrov rears up and slams his hooves against the ground. This action draws North's attention from the treasure and towards the screams from the village children. Only those with a pure heart are able to enter the village. Who had the pure heart—Petrov, North, or both? Can animals have pure hearts?

24. How did the Man in the Moon know North would respond to the story dream the moonbeam transmitted to North while he was sleeping? Why was North chosen to assist the villagers of Santoff Claussen?

25. Is there any significance to the resurrection of the giant bear with his wounds gone and his fur as white as snow?

26. How could Katherine's steady kindness to North be his greatest comfort and yet at the same time be his worst torment?

27. There are many different types of friendships in this story. Have the group discuss the friendships between Ombric and the Man in the Moon, Katherine and Ombric, Katherine and North, Pitch and the Fearlings, spectral boy and Moonbeam, and North and Petrov. What does friendship mean? Are there any similarities between these relationships?

28. Discuss the spectral boy and his simplified understanding of good and bad. Riding clouds was good but Fearlings and Nightmare Men were bad. Did his age and his life experiences have anything to do with his understanding of good and bad?

29. Discuss with the group which character in the story experienced the most growth in character? Have the group provide examples from the story to support their statements.

30. Ombric's telling of The Story of The Golden Age was printed on black paper with white lettering. What do you believe was the reason for this change?

31. North has problems making friends. Friendship requires trust. Why was it so hard for North to trust anyone? Who was able to befriend him? How did this person succeed?

32. Ombric states, "Knowledge without wisdom can get a bit messy." He was referring to North's attempts at experiments in the lab. What does he mean by this statement? Is it safe or foolhardy to plunge into an experiment without knowing what the results will be?

33. North's ability to entertain the children of the village with his stories worked as a tonic for the frightened children. Besides the soothing effect of the stories, was there any other purpose for the storytelling? What is the purpose of stories?

34. When the djinni asked, "What is your command?" what would you ask it to do? Is there a downside to having one's own djinni? What would it be?

35. The djinni misinterprets North's saying of "Good night, Djinni" as a command. Think of other examples of everyday sayings that the djinni might misinterpret.

36. Compare and contrast the djinni to robots with artificial intelligence that exist today.

37. A compass will always point to north. What is the difference between North's present to Katherine and a regular compass?

38. When Katherine set out to rescue North and Ombric, what methods and items did she use?

39. The strength of friendship between Katherine and the spectral boy was very strong. He willingly risked his life to keep her safe. Katherine willingly risked her life to save North and Ombric. Compare the strength of friendship to the control of fear. Which one is stronger?

40. Katherine makes a drawing of North and depicts him as grander than life and as having an important place in the world. North is surprised by this depiction of himself. Does Katherine's drawing change North's perception of himself and what he will do with his life?

41. Katherine's drawing of North, which was placed inside djinni, commands a strong power. Why can't Pitch, inside djinni's body, harm North?

42. Who is the spectral boy, and what is his real name? Who has been waiting for his appearance?

43. What is the significance of the gong that the Luna Lumas own?

44. The weapons the Abominable Snowmen used to fight Pitch and the Fearlings were forged from the dust of fallen stars. What is so important about the composition of these weapons?

45. Ombric says, "A daydream properly utilized can be the most powerful force in the universe. One need only dream of freedom to begin to break the spell of enslavement." Compare this belief in this story to events in our world where the dream of freedom helped escape enslavement.

46. Katherine, who collects stories, wishes to ride on the back of a Great Snow Goose from the Himalayas. What other character in literature also enjoys riding on the back of a goose?

Visit TheGuardiansofChildhoodBooks.com for downloadable activities, videos, and more.

Guide prepared by Lynn Dobson, librarian at East Brookfield Elementary School, East Brookfield, MA.

This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 35 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(23)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Magical and Perfect for the Holiday Season

    Nicholas St. North and the Nightmare King is a fun and new explanation about the origins of Santa Claus. It has something for everyone, both those who celebrate Christmas, and those who do not. There’s fighting, action, magic, invention, and some captivating descriptions about light and dark and good and bad.

    The purity and innocence that comes with childhood really plays an important role in this swashbuckling adventure. North, the Santa Claus figure, is dashing and roguish and nothing like the Santa we think of now, but children will love to see him in this new light. Everything about the story is special and holds this sense of enchantment that will charm even the most reluctant readers.

    While the story focuses on Santa Claus, it doesn’t go into any sort of religious background. Instead, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, taps into the magic that comes with the holiday season and the childhood wonderment that this time of the year invokes. It’s a dreamlike story that will delight readers and enchant them with a new way of thinking of their dear Santa Claus.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2012

    THE BEST BEDTIME STORY EVER

    My all-time favourite kids series of all. It is certainly the Guardian of Childhood.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    Awesome book. If anyone loves different spins on old classics as

    Awesome book. If anyone loves different spins on old classics as we are seeing in Once Upon a Time and in Wicked, they will love this take on childhood heroes.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    Solid characters, great imagination... may not be what you expected

    Let me start by saying that, like many others, my first intoduction to this series was rough Rise of the Guardians. I came into this knowing in general what to expect.

    So having now read it, let me tell you what you can expect - and not expect.

    The characters, as in the movie, are the strongest part of this book. The only one you'll be recognizing is North - this is his book - but the cast that supports him are just as engaging and entertaining.

    The plot is pretty basic. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise. But what it lacks in great plotting, it makes up for in sheer imagination and wonder as described in setting and lore. The places you read of and things the characters do all retain that same sense of dreamlike amazement you might expect from this series.

    If there's a real weakness to be had, it's in writing. This is obviously a children's book - you can't even get away with callin it YA. Even with that in mind, the author takes a very "tell don't show" approach. Everything is told very matter of factly, with nothing really left to the imagination. Character feelings are told straight up. And perhaps worse, many times dialogue is completely thrown aside for simply telling what the conversation was about.

    Go in expecting the right thing, and you won't be disappointed. Or better yet, get this for your kids. Just don't expect too much feom it.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    I think this book is awesome.

    This book is of the best I ever read, and I have read alot of books.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 21, 2012

    I love this book. I love it very much. It captivated my imaginat

    I love this book. I love it very much. It captivated my imagination and hid it in the forests of Santoff Claussen with the bear and the Spirit of The Forest and the Great Reindeer too. It is dreaming sweet dreams with Kathrine and Nightlight. My imagination is happy as am I. This book is marvelous. To those that say otherwise I am sorry that you have no imagination

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2012

    Nicholas st. North

    This is a very good book for children and is a good book for reading around christmas time

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2012

    Awesomme books!

    These series of books are about the characters who are most important to our childhood! This book focuses on who is Santa Claus and how did he come to be and how does he "protect" us! GREAT BOOK(S)!!!!!!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Awesome

    Luv it

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

    So cil SO SO COOL!!!!!

    Joyce did an amazing job. I really felt I was in the story!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2013

    Nsn

    Weird 2 no tht some dude that pepl cal "santa claus" was once a criminal.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 26, 2013

    I picked up this book as a part of the Magnificently Magic Read-

    I picked up this book as a part of the Magnificently Magic Read-A-Thon* both because it was a book I had been wanting to read and because of how perfectly it fit the criteria. Being as it weighs in at 228 pages and is assuredly lower middle grade might have had something to do with choosing it.

    Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King is the first book in The Guardians series. It takes place after The Man in the Moon, which is the first book in the picture book companion series, The Guardians of Childhood, also written by William Joyce. (It's a quick read, and I recommend that you read it first.) The Nightmare King, Pitch, escapes his imprisonment after the inadvertent actions of a moonbeam releases an elfish boy made of light encased in a dagger in Pitch's heart. This sets of a chain of events that is the focus of this.

    I'm not sure if I've ever said this on the blog, but I have a special place in my heart for middle grade novels. There is rarely any gore, minimal depressive events (before you say anything, I believe Harry Potter 5-7 is YA), and a lovely, magical sense of fun whether there is literal magic or not. Nicholas St. North gives us just that. Joyce & Geringer brilliantly draw the reader into the story, while setting up the world in the novel for the entire series. Where the picture book, The Man in the Moon introduced the reader to Mim, AKA Tsar Lunar, in this novel we meet Nicholas St. North (Santa, perhaps?), Ombric the Wizard, and Katherine, a little foundling girl in Ombric's care. Nightlight, a character and friend of Mim's in The Man in the Moon, makes a reappearance in this novel. The first half of the story is mostly devoted to world-building (which is rich), but the action is exciting once it comes.

    This would be a fantastic story for fans of fairy tales or reimaginings, and I highly recommend this book for reluctant readers. There are illustrations scattered throughout the book, and the pacing is gripping and fast enough to hold on to those frustratingly short attention spans. There is also the film adaptation, The Rise of the Guardians, that can be used as a tool to bring readers to Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King and vice versa.

    3.5 Stars

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2014

    Wonderful

    I found this book on a bus. A girl on my schoolbus was reading the second book. I asked her what she was reading and she showed me the cover. I saw the author was William Joyce so I wrote that name in Sharpie on my arm. When I got home I looked up his name on my nook. Then I added every book in the Guardians series to my wishlist. I checked the whole series from the library. On my birthday I bought the series. These books are utterly magical and wonderful. If you love a book with a great story and funny bits of humor then this book is for you.
    -ichigo tachikawa

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

    Beautiful!

    This is a book that I can read over and over and never get tired of, it's written beautifully and I love I love books in which you can't help but root for the bad guy (North). Also this is a story about a young man who as no memory of the family he used to have who later finds himself through Ombric (a wise - yet loony wizard) and Katherine (a young orphan girl raised by Ombric), then realizing that he is not a theif or a ruffian, but a hero!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    What a fantastic story! My daughter is a 9 year old "reluct

    What a fantastic story! My daughter is a 9 year old "reluctant reader" who wanted no part of this book until
    she sat down and started reading it. From the very first chapter she fell in love with it and I think would have
    very well read it from cover to cover if I would have let her go without sleeping! This is a terrific story, full of 
    adventure and action, magic and mystery and my child can't put it down! We've already got the next two
    books lined up waiting to read! What a delightful feeling it is to have her excited and anxious to read what happens
    next! Well done Mr. Joyce! Thanks for the adventure!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2014

    readers story part two

    Jack looked at Tracy with the most dazzling eyes she had ever seen. He said, "Are you lost?" Tracy said, "Well...It's...um...yeah...," in a tiny voice. Suddenly a growl emerged from the blanket of white that was now descending upon her and Jack. She jumped. Another growl emerged. Then another and and another as wolves appeared out of nowhere. But these wolves were like no other. They were black as night, and if Tracy looked hard enough, she would see that they were made of a fine sand. Jack stepped in front of Tracy and said in a commanding voice, "Don't move." Tracy squeaked, "What...are those?" "Nightmares." "What?!" "Pitch must be here." "Who's Pitch?!?" "He must be trying another scheme." "YOU'RE NOT MAKING ANY SENSE!!!!" Suddenly, one of the night-wolves growled. "Shhhh." said Jack. Then, from out of the white nothingness surounding them and the wolves, a larger, stronger wolf, the alpha male, came charging out of its hiding spot, ran towards Tracy like a man possessed, and bit Tracy soundly on the arm! Tracy let out an ear-piercing scream and threw the wolf off her arm. Cluthing her wound, she noticed with horror that the fine sand that made up the wolves was now seeping into her bloodstream. Suddenly, the growls of the wolves seemed distant. She swayed and fell onto the powdered snow. She heard Jack calling to her- "Are you ok?!"- but his voice seemed faint and far away. Her eyelids then just got too heavy to keep open, and she let herself slip into unconciousness.
    ------------------
    Jack saw Tracy fall to the ground. He tried to call her, but he didn't know her name. As she slipped into unconciousness, Jack knew she was in serious danger. He picked her up and called to the wind, saying, "Wind, take me to the Pole!" A sudden gust of wind blew by, carrying Jack and Tracy away from the dangerous wolves. Soon, the North Pole came into view. Jack rushed inside, where North was finishing up designs for a snow-themed train set. Jack ran up to the big, jolly Guardian and said, "We have a big problem."

    Part three will be at E. Aster Bunnymund by William Joyce. If you want to read part one, that is at Rise of the Guardians Junior Novel. Tell me what you think. No bad language, please!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2014

    Dim

    I love it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2014

    The book I loved

    I loved the book so much that I asked my librarian when she got the chance if she could get the second book for me thats how much I loved it!!!!!!!! :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2013

    exellent book!

    You will love this book! Buy it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Amazing!

    William Joyce does an amazing job connecting the beleifs of the man known as "Santa" to the book! A little confusing at first though.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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