So this book isn’t really set during Christmas, but because it’s a fictional story of Nicholas St. North, aka Santa Clause, I considered it an appropriate book for the task.
Pitch Black has been freed. Many years have passed since the day he attempted to destroy The Man in the Moon and his family, but his desire to spread fear and corruption to every living soul has not been diminished. When Pitch learns of a town where everyone has lived a life nightmare free, he turns his malicious sight upon them. But The Man in the Moon has not forgotten Pitch and is preparing a defense for those he has chosen to protect: Nicholas St. North. North is the world’s greatest thief who journeys to this same land of Santoff Claussen in search of the riches he believes to be within its borders. Upon arriving there North is presented with a decision that will shape the rest of his life: to continue his search for riches or protect the people of Santoff Claussen.
I saw the movie Rise of the Guardians without realizing that it was based on a series of books. Here we have the introduction to one of the movie’s beloved characters. Though as is always the case, and my wife would probably hate me for saying this, but the book is better. It isn’t the same story, the movie takes place after all the books, but North’s character is better in written form and Pitch was even more evil than he’s portrayed by DreamWorks. Almost always, the book is able to capture the plot or characters of a story in a way that is nearly impossible to do in a movie. There just isn’t the time to put everything on the big screen and so the selection process must take place, but often at a price.
In my opinion, William Joyce is a master of children’s literature. With simple but elegant character development, establishment of setting, and significant tension he creates a world to help children explore the world of the imagination. The plot tension is simple on the surface: good versus, evil, but it also defines the inner fears of children around the world and embellishes a well-known character to serve as a protector from childhood fears.
As in most children’s books there is a clear moral, but here it is both clear and hidden simultaneously. To elaborate, the moral, or a moral as is more precise, is that anything we dream can become a reality if we believe. This runs through the whole story as the village of Santoff Claussen is protected by the product of a wizard’s magic, which operates partially on ones ability to dream and imagine. When I say hidden I don’t mean that it is hard to find, but that it isn’t oppressive. It’s subtle in the way it rides the story naturally, visible beneath the surface but only occasionally breaking the surface for a moment before slipping silently beneath the waves of the plot.
This is not your traditional Santa Clause story. It isn’t even a traditional Christmas story; it’s a story about a man who rises to the occasion. One could argue that this is a coming of age story, in a way. Eventually each of us will have to make a decision: to continue on the path that we desire or let the path diverge onto something challenging and essentially more promising. Anyone who is an adult will agree that things like college, moving out, working, and getting married are things that come with a great deal of challenges, but that those challenges and sacrifices are far worth it for the rewards.
Joyce is a man with a great deal of imagination and I respect him for his work. Good children’s literature, just like any other type of literature, is not easy. After reading the first of the novels in this series I will again say that he is a master of the genre. It may not be your classic English literature that’s read in high school and college, but maybe it should be. Fewer and fewer people are picking up a book and exploring new worlds. Maybe kids just need a wider selection to pull from in order to find what interests them. And this is a superb example of what writing can do for young and impressionable minds.