Nickerbacher by Terry John Barto

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Nickerbacher by Terry John Barto

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Category: Emerging Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Lovely fantasy story about a dragon and a princess and, if you can believe it, stand-up comedy. Funny and sweet with some positive messaging about defying stereotypes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 51 Date: December 2016
Publisher: TJB Kids
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1944878276

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Nickerbacher is doing his dragonly duty as all dragons do. That dragonly duty is, of course, princess-guarding. That's what dragons are for, after all. But Gwendolyn isn't any princess. She finds the whole princessing thing quite boring really and she is much less interested in fairy tales than she is in watching comedy on The Late Knight Show. Nickerbacher likes The Late Knight Show too - in fact, it's his favourite TV show because he wants to be a stand-up comedian himself. He tries out his jokes on Princess Gwendolyn but they don't always come off quite as Nickerbacher intended.

Nickerbacher's father is a traditional dragon. He is not a fan of Nickerbacher's undragonly humour and he forbids his son from going to La La Land to audition for The Late Knight Show. But then, one day, Prince Happenstance arrives. He too, is about his fairy tale duty - the Prince Guild has sent him to rescue Princess Gwendolyn, who, er, doesn't need rescuing. After a bit of argy-bargy, the three decide to throw traditional fairy tales roles to the wind, escape to La La Land and see if Nickerbacher has what it takes to make it as a comedian...

Oh, but this is a lovely little story. It's funny and energetic with a dire one-liner on every page. I laugh-groaned at least a dozen times. Our three rebels make it to La La Land, where they meet an array of hilarious characters and Nickerbacher learns that all good comedy must have an element of truth. It's all about following your dreams and you cannot help but root for this most charming of dragons and his two accomplices. All three deserve to get what they want out of life and it's really rather life-affirming to see them support each other and take their chances when they come. And because of their positive determination, they win over all the naysayers - not only the audience of The Late Knight Show but also Nickerbacher's traditionalist father.

Sentence structure is short and sharp with a good rhythm, which makes the story ideal for reading aloud. The vocabulary is stretching but accessible, making the story also a good choice for emerging readers keen to try alone once the shared bedtime story is over. The lovely illustrations, full of detail, give this book appeal for the child who likes to pore over favourites again and again. There's always something new to notice and they really make Nickerbacher's open, kindly personality come to life.

I would like to know what Nickerbacher does next. Does he become a hero of the comedy circuit? What about Gwendolyn and Happenstance? Do they live happily ever after or do they embark on a new adventure? More like this, please!

A winning and engaging story, with some really positive messaging about defying restrictive stereotypes. Recommended.

You can read more about Terry John Barto here.

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