The tale of the only Guardian of Childhood to be a child himself turns out to be hinged on battles and transformations.
With flights of baroque fancy in both language and art, the story opens with Nightlight, oath-bound protector of the rotund lad who would become the Man in the Moon, locked in “fierce and valiant” battle with would-be kidnapper Pitch, the Nightmare King. The long, recuperative sleep that follows changes Nightlight to Jackson Overland Frost—a wild, lonely spirit who wanders the Earth spreading winter until the rescue of a family of errant children gives him fresh purpose: to protect not just one child, but all of them, “For they are all that I have, all that I am, / And all that I will ever be.” An elfin, slender figure in tight trousers and a stylish hoodie, his tousled silver locks in definite need of a trim or at least a comb, Jack seems to have stepped from some manga to pose theatrically amid late-autumnal sprays of mist and dramatic, cloudy curlicues. Nonetheless, the children’s elegant, Edwardian dress and references to a lost Golden Age in the mannered narrative intensify the retro atmosphere common to this series.
As ever, the force of nostalgia is strong; the force of narrative, not so much. (Picture book. 6-8)