Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Guardians of Childhood - beautiful, magical picture books by William Joyce (ages 5 - 9)

Children are fascinated by the characters of our modern mythology - Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny. And yet, there is no clear story that we all tell our children about how these characters came to be. William Joyce has created a wonderful series about these characters called The Guardians of Childhood. My students have loved the magical picture books that Joyce uses to launch this series - The Man in the Moon and The Sandman. Theses stories are now continued with the movie, The Rise of the Guardians.
The Man in the Moon
Simon & Schuster / Atheneum, 2011
ages 5 - 9
As a baby, the Man in the Moon (MiM) was watched over by his guardian, the faithful Nightlight. When the evil Pitch, King of the Nightmares, decides to make this innocent baby one of his own, an almighty battle of good versus evil erupts. The valiant Nightlight swears to protect MiM, sacrificing his life in the process. The Man in the Moon does survive, but he is all alone - until he discovers that he can hear the hopes and dreams of the children of Earth.

William Joyce captures young readers' attention with bold, dramatic illustrations, alternating between saturated colors and stark grey tones. But what really struck my students was the message behind the story. There was a sense of awe and quiet as we ended the story with the Man in the Moon vowing to protect the children of Earth. This story resonated with the children on a deeper level - a sense that the moon is always there as their nightlight, reassuring them when nightmares might visit.

The book trailer below does a nice job of introducing the picture book in a dramatic way. I share this story each year with 2nd graders as they study a "good guy vs. bad guy" creative writing unit.

The Guardians of Childhood Book Trailer from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

The story of the Man in the Moon is continued with Joyce's newest picture book: The Sandman. This adorable little fellow sends us all to sleep, protecting us from nightmares and fear. Children have responded to his mighty battle with Pitch and to his promise to keep us safe. Again, Joyce's illustrations heighten the dramatic battles and the magical feel to the stories. But it is the heart and message that brings children back to these again and again.
The Sandman:
The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie
by William Joyce
Simon & Schuster, Atheneum, 2012
ages 5 - 9
Amazon and your local library
My children and I enjoyed the movie The Rise of the Guardians. The animation was wonderful, and the humor invested in each of the characters gave them depth and staying power. But the chase scenes dominated the storytelling, as so often happens in animated movies. I am sure that gives young viewers satisfaction, but it left me wanting a bit more.

I am looking forward to seeing how my students enjoy the novels based on this series. I am fascinated by the way Joyce has created a complete story-world, using picture books, novels and movies to tell different stories within the same series. Early reports indicate that the novels appeal to 4th through 6th graders who love detailed fantasies.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers Simon & Schuster. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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