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Controversy Nick of Time video

Betsy, Colleen and readers, 
I’d love to throw some other ideas into the mix of discussions on Nick of Time and the Glenn Beck/Ted Bell video interview on YouTube. There has been a great deal of discussion about the video, but I can’t see where most of the people had ever read the book. For anyone to call Katie a weak character shows me who has and hasn’t read the book. It seems that people are listening to the interview and putting their own interpretation upon the story before reading it. I have made no secret that I am a BIG fan of this book, so let me share some of the reasons why.

Nick of TimeNick of Time is set in 1939 before England enters the war and during a time where Churchill had spies out to prove there was Nazi action pending. The setting is an island so historical tales of seagoing captains’ valor and evil pirates are natural story fare and our characters experience life-and-death situations. We read that Nick and Katie’s parents have read many stories to them as his mother reminds Nick that only story characters feel no fear. 

The main character, Nick McIver is 12 old. His sister Katie is 6. She is not a weak and timid thing. She is actually very feisty and brave. She does pretend and playact better than her contemporary Shirley Temple. Katie actually saves Commander Hobbes through her quick thinking and is a fun character throughout. 

Katie is young enough to idolize her older brother after he saves her cat Horatio. Since their parents are gone to London, Nick takes his role of protector and older brother very seriously. When Katie faces danger, she is actually quite daring for her young age:

“You see, nothing’s impossible. That’s what my brother always says. And he’s my hero. He saved Horatio. [her cat]…Are you going to kidnap me? You can if you want to. My brother will only rescue me again. He always does, you see. Some people have an angel sitting on their shoulder. I have a brother!”

Hero-worshipping a brother, oh, how dastardly a deed. The un-PCness of this action must make the author prejudiced against women. Not! (At least not in this story, let’s get together and talk about your adult books, women, and manatees, Ted.)

The greatest part of this book is how Nick grows in his understanding of what it means to be a hero. At the beginning, he is afraid to be frightened and goes to his mother for comfort. He wants to be a hero because his father received a hero’s welcome after the war even though he doesn’t know what it means. At one point early in the story Nick realizes that:


"Heroes didn’t have to be braver than normal boys, Nick thought. Sometimes they just had to be brave for a few minutes longer." 

I really don’t want to give away all of this story, but it is as wonderful as Glenn Beck, James Patterson, and I have been telling you. Okay, I admit that I believe MY quotes are much more interesting than Mr. Patterson’s but I’m the school teacher and he’s the millionaire author. The characters develop in Nick of Time. The reader’s perception of being a hero will change and grow, also.

I welcome the discussion of the interview. I just want to point out that you cannot judge this book on your notions of what is "acceptable" boy psychological theory or antiPC stances unless you read it. Once you have, then we can chat in more detail. I’m looking forward to it because this discussion has enabled me to pull out the book again. 

Am I upset (as a feminist who attended Girls’ State Leadership Camp, marched in protests, and constantly discusses equal rights with my sons) that two guys sat around talking about the lack of good guy stories? Not at all. I think they don’t know what’s out there, but they seem to be hungering for great adventures. Without sex, thank you very much, or too many modern day issues inserted into history. 

Well, here, let me quote for you some statements from Ted himself in an email sent February 23rd.

"Yes to all your questions, first novel, self-published, tiny run, (actually print-on-demand) back in 2000. Wrote this while living in England for my then 8 year old daughter [emphasis Diane’s] because I didn’t think there were any good old fashioned adventures like TREASURE ISLAND anymore. This was what motivated me to finally sit down and write a novel, something I’d wanted to do since I was 7 or 8 myself! When St. M’s decided to publish, I re-read it, updated it, did a very thorough edit, and this is a dream come true because it has always been my most favorite book of mine. My mother-in-law who lives next door and is 95 has read it 3 times and is now reading it again. When asked at her weekly tea the other day why she keeps reading it, she twinkled and said, "Because it just gets better every time!" Another reason I keep harping on the marketing idea that this is a book not just for boys or girls but FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!!!" [author’s emphasis]

Okay, so tell me now that you have read the comments on Colleen’s blog, on Betsy’s blog and here, aren’t you curious to read this book we are talking about? It is a quick 434 page read and you’ll simply have fun. I dare you not to change your mind when you see how Nick develops. In fact, I double-dog-dare you.

Hey, I just went back and re-read what I wrote in February. At that time I mentioned wanting to go to middle school just so I could put this book in students’ hands. Hm! I am going to middle school this year. Perhaps I should post something in this blog about becoming a millionaire, too? Be sure to check out the Starred review in SLJ, too.


  1. Fuse #8 says:

    An interesting alternative take to the interview. I don’t think much mention of the actual book itself has come up, has it? I mean, up until this point I’ve mostly read discussions about boy books in general and the effect of strong female characters on boy readers. No one besides yourself has really discussed whether or not the book is any good. I have it on my shelf, but ever since that interview I’ve not wanted to pick it up. Obviously you can’t judge a book on where its author goes, but what about what the author says? I mean, he seemed to agree with Beck. It would have been difficult for him to disagree, but certainly not impossible. So should I judge the book on its author? I don’t much care for Orson Scott Card but I do sometimes read his books. Tis a puzzlement.

  2. Colleen says:

    I tried to be clear in my post at Guys Lit Wire that I was discussing the interview and not the book – because it is not at all the book that bothered me. I never referred to Bell’s characters specifically because I have not read the book. I responded to Glenn Beck and Ted Bell talking – not to Ted Bell’s written words.

    This came up at Gwenda’s blog as well when Ted Bell chimed in. Gwenda explained over there that it was never about his book, it was about his discussion with Beck. And Bell said he could not defend the interview itself – only his book. (And again – I have NOTHING against his book.)

    There were two key points in that interview, one where Beck specifically said that boys NEED to be the ones who rescue the girl – and also, that it was so refreshing to see in this instance the girl not rescue herself or anyone else. Now in the context of this story that might be perfectly fine but they were speaking far beyond this story and to the state of YA lit for teenage boys in general. Beck said that current YA lit emasculates teen boys – his word, not mine. And he made it clear that the reason why is because girls are all too often strong characters.

    Ted Bell might have written a lovely book but he did the character of Katie, and all the girls who might enjoy reading about her, no favors by not speaking up in this interview.

  3. Diane Chen says:

    Thanks for answering my question about reading the book. I wish others had stated whether they had or had not read the book or were simply commenting on the video.
    I have decided there is a good reason I avoid the 30 second sound bytes of television and go for the in-depth blog posts like yours, Betsy’s, and 7-Imps.
    I am enjoying this conversation and hope Ted chimes in again. Okay, Ted, they aren’t talking about your book but about your and Beck’s points on emasculation of teen boys. Tell us more. Explain more clearly what you were missing.

  4. Ted Bell says:

    I’ve tried twice now to respond but I keep getting a warning about HTML. If you are still interested in hearing my take on the book and the interview, please visit my website, There is a message board there and I respond to all questions.

    Ted Bell