THE AUTHOR: William Joyce
I recently attended the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in Naples, Fla. There I met a multitude of authors — some young and some just young-at-heart author friends. I spent three days in absolute Heaven! All of the authors were so kind, and many gave me two or three copies of their books so that I could use them for giveaways.
At a dinner party Saturday evening, I soon realized that I was sitting almost directly across from William Joyce, the ultimate children’s author. He had given out his new book, “The Sandman,” to everyone attending the dinner. This is one in a series of books he has been working on for the past 20 years, and it is beyond marvelous!
He also showed us his 15-minute film for which he won an Academy Award, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.” There are moments in your life that you realize are special that you will remember and cherish forever. This 15-minute film was one of those moments for me. It is breathtaking. It will make you happy and sad, and will inspire you to read everything that you can get your hands on.
“The Sandman” is such a magical read. Inside the book you learn that “the very first guardian was the Man in the Moon and it was he who found the others.” Joyce compares the Man in the Moon to “a giant nightlight” in the sky, and says that he keeps all of the nightmares away.
But the book poses the question: When the moon isn’t all round and bright, who will keep the children safe? And that is about the time that Sanderson Mansnoozie, whom you may know better as The Sandman, appears.
Sanderson Mansnoozie, better known as Sandy, arrived during The Golden Age on a shooting star. Everyone knows what you do if you ever see a shooting star – you quickly and quietly make a wish upon it. But wishes come from dreams, we are told, and you must always have a dream tied up in your heart for your wish to come true.
But there always has to be an evil guy that spoils all the fun and causes the conflict in the story. Here it is Pitch, the King of the Nightmares. Joyce says that Pitch sails into children’s dreams with his Dream Pirates to “harpoon the stars and drag them to their doom.”
With Pitch’s arrival, Sandy experiences fear for the very first time. You will have to read to find out if he gets away, manages to avoid being harpooned and thrown into a dark hole in space, saves the children from nightmares forever, and takes away their fear. (Hint: yes, yes, yes, and yes. Your children will be both entertained and reassured.)
This book is filled with interesting words your children can learn and with which they can stretch their vocabularies. They’ll encounter such words as harpoon, constellation, nightmare, Orion, astonishing, island, Golden Age, and many more.
You must not tell your children, but rather let them learn that Sandy becomes “His Nocturnal Magnificence, Sanderson Mansnoozie, Sandman the First, Lord High Protector of Sleep and Dreams” while you have them in your arms, reading the story to them before bed. This is just a magical moment for all children, and for those of us still young-at-heart.
Dreamworks will release “Rise of the Guardians” into theaters on Nov. 21, but you should get all of the books possible and read them to your children before you take them to see the movie.
Books that you should get as fast as you can are: “The Man in the Moon,” “Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King,” “E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core,” “Santa Calls” and “Dinosaur Bob,” just to name a few. Joyce’s speech at the dinner was a rare appearance, and he told us that as a small child in grade school his teacher had been the first to ask him to write a book. He did, but he did not get a good review. In fact, his mother and father were called to the office of the school principal, who reprimanded their child severely.
He had indeed written and illustrated his own book, thereby fulfilling his assignment, but had accurately titled it “Billy’s Boogers.” His teacher and principal felt that his subject matter was highly offensive. He didn’t even get to show his book to his friends, who already thought that he was hilarious, but who were never allowed to examine this early example of his written work. Some people just don’t appreciate good art.
I decided that sitting so close to Bill Joyce was “a God thing” because I became so enthralled with the evening. I barely was conscious of standing up, picking up my copy of the book, and standing in a very long line that had formed in front of him. I was fourth in line, and was as nervous as I could possibly be. I could not imagine what brilliant or non-brilliant words might come out of my mouth when I finally met him.
When it was my turn to speak, I thanked him for his wonderful stories and for an amazing evening, and I told him that I would not only have loved “Billy’s Boogers,” but would have displayed it proudly in my classroom. He gave me a giant hug, autographed my book to my grandchildren (which is a secret Christmas present, so please do not tell them), and told me that he is actually working on a re-write of “Billy’s Boogers” right now.
Obviously the reprimand he received as a child left a deep impression on him. As an educator for so many years and as a parent of four as well, I hope that I didn’t scar any of my students with thoughtless statements or hurt my children with careless remarks. I do believe, however, that Bill will fulfill his dream, and that we will soon see his “booger book” beautifully realized for the world to appreciate. Children know what’s funny, even if the rest of us sometimes forget.
I reserve “5 tiaras” now for only the top of the chart — books such as “The Old Man and the Sea” and “In Cold Blood” — but I believe that in the children’s genre of make believe, this book should receive “5 tiaras” without the blink of a sleepy eye. To his audience of children, William Joyce speaks their language and sees their dreams.
Buy the “Guardian” series, and save it for your children to pass along to their children. These are heirloom books, much like that tattered old copy of “Mother Goose” that seems to have always been in your bedroom, the cover barely hanging on by a thread. I promise you that you’ll rediscover at least a little of your youth while you read, and you’ll be creating the same memories for your own little ones.
Buice, a Carrollton resident, writes a weekly book review for the Times-Georgian. anita of anitabook.com.