Foreword Reviews

Nickerbacher

Clarion Rating: 5 out of 5

Nickerbacher is a playful, joyful story with a timeless, powerful message: be yourself and speak from your heart.

Terry John Barto’s Nickerbacher is an updated fairy tale about a friendly dragon guarding a princess that encourages being true to oneself and standing up for those who are different.

The familiar trope of a relationship between a princess and a dragon is given an original twist. Nickerbacher is a self-conscious dragon and the focus of his supportive princess friend’s attention. The princess isn’t a typical damsel in distress, either. Nickerbacher guards her from any princes who might annoy her. They are mutually bemused by the story of Sleeping Beauty, wondering, “Why would he kiss someone who’s sleeping?”

Nickerbacher’s father strongly feels that guarding a princess is a dragon’s place in life. But Nickerbacher would prefer to be a stand-up comedian on the Late Knight Show. With his princess and a new friend, Prince Happenstance, he travels to La La Land—a play on Los Angeles, where all of the fairy tale creatures live. Along the way he is reminded that comedy needs to be truthful and come from the heart. If he simply tells his story, people will like him. He struggles with his father’s disapproval and risks going against his “duty” to follow his dream.

This book is a delight, similar in look and feel to Peggy Parish books, with clever pen-and-ink-style illustrations that are perfectly suited to the text. In particular, full-page illustrations of La La Land expertly bend perspective and scale to translate the chaos of so many characters in one vibrant city.

Each chapter is a well-defined step in Nickerbacher’s journey, and each character is a nod to the fantasy lexicon. In La La Land the dragon finds a leprechaun acting coach, Santa and his elves attend Nickerbacher’s big show, and the rising Miss Phoenix materializes from the ashes to serve as the Late Knight Show receptionist.

The story and its classical literary and cultural references are woven together harmoniously. Nickerbacher takes a selfie in La La Land and fits his feet into the cement prints of movie stars. He struggles with respectfully defying his parents. His story is so relatable and endearing that it’s easy to forget that the dragon is supposed to be so different from everyone else. Therein lies the novel’s great success.

Nickerbacher is a playful, joyful story with a timeless, powerful message: be yourself and speak from your heart.

Reviewed by Sara Budzik

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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