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E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core!

Book #2 of The Guardians
Illustrated by William Joyce


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About The Book

Forget the bunny trail. E. Aster Bunnymund is on a warpath. In this second chapter book in Academy Award winner William Joyce’s The Guardians series, sometimes you have to crack a few eggs.

Pitch, the Nightmare King, and his Fearlings had been soundly driven back by Nicholas St. North and company in the first Guardians’ adventure. But now Pitch has disappeared completely—and out of sight does NOT make for out of mind. It seems certain that he’s plotting a particularly nefarious revenge, and the Guardians suspect he might have gone underground. But how can they find him there?

Enter E. Aster Bunnymund, the only emissary of the fabled brotherhood of the Pookas—the league of philosophical warrior rabbits of imposing intellect and size. Highly skilled in martial arts (many of which he invented himself), Bunnymund is brilliant, logical, and a tunnel-digger extraordinaire. If the Guardians need paths near the Earth’s core, he’s their Pooka. He’s also armed with magnificent weapons of an oval-sort, and might just be able to help in the quest for the second piece of the Moonclipper.

This second book in The Guardians series is about much more than fixing a few rotten eggs—it brings the Guardians one step closer to defeating Pitch!


E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core CHAPTER ONE

We Begin Our Story with a Story
IN THE HINTERLANDS OF eastern Siberia was the village where Katherine, North, and Ombric called home. The village of Santoff Claussen felt somewhat lonely without them, but a dozen or so adventurous children played in the enchanted forest that protected their homes from the outside world. The surrounding oak trees were among the largest in the world. Their massive trunks and limbs were a paradise for climbing.

Petter, a strong boy of twelve who imagined himself a daring hero, catapulted onto the porch of his favorite tree house. He landed just ahead of his little sister, Sascha. She was testing her latest invention: gloves and shoes that allowed her to scamper up a tree, like a squirrel. But Petter’s catapult was faster.

“I’ll beat you next time,” Sascha said, hoping that a small engine on the heel of each shoe would do the trick.

She peered down at the clearing hundreds of feet below. The village’s bear, a massive creature, loped around the perimeter of the clearing along with Petrov, the horse of Nicholas St. North. Sascha was wondering if she’d ever be allowed to ride Petrov when she spied Tall William, the first son of Old William, squatting on his heels, talking to a group of centipedes. The children of Santoff Claussen had begun to learn the easier insect languages (ant, worm, snail), but Tall William was the first to tackle the more difficult speech of centipede. Sascha pressed a trumpet-shaped sound amplifier to her ear.

Tall William reported what the centipedes said, that all was well—Pitch, the Nightmare King, was nowhere to be seen. It was a warm summer day, but the memory of that terrible time when Pitch appeared in Santoff Claussen made Sascha shiver as if it were the darkest night in deepest winter.

Pitch had once been a hero of the Golden Age, an ancient time when Constellations ruled the universe. His name in those days long ago was General Kozmotis Pitchiner, and he had led the Golden Age Armies in capturing the Fearlings and Dream Pirates who plagued that era. These villains were wily creatures of darkness. When they escaped, they devoured the general’s soul, and from that moment on, he hungered for the dreams of innocent children and was known simply as “Pitch.” He was determined to drain the good from dreams until they became nightmares—every last one of them—so that the children of Earth and then other worlds would live in terror. And the dreams of the children of Santoff Claussen—who had never before known fear or wickedness—were the prizes he coveted most.

Sascha, like the other children of Santoff Claussen, had survived that terrifying night when Pitch’s Fearlings had nearly captured them in the enchanted forest, thanks to a glimmering boy with a moonlit staff who drove back the inky marauders.

Now she climbed out onto a branch and hung by her knees, still holding the ear trumpet. The world looks different upside down, but it sounds the same, she thought.

Sascha listened once more, then lowered the sound amplifier. The insects had said all was well. Even so, what if Pitch and his Fearlings come back again? She frowned, but before that thought could darken her mood, Petter called out for a new contest. “Race you to the clearing!” he shouted, leaping for the nearest branch.

Scrambling down the tree, Sascha’s shoes and gloves now gave her the advantage. She landed proudly in front of Tall William and his brother William the Almost Youngest. Her own brother was still half a tree behind.

She was about to brag about her victory when she spotted the stone elves hunkered amidst the vines and trees. There were at least ten statues in total, and they made for an eerie and unsettling sight, some with arms raised, swords at the ready; others frozen in midscream.

They were Nicholas St. North’s band of outlaws, turned to stone by the Spirit of the Forest. The Spirit had spared North for he alone was true of heart. Rejecting her offer of riches, he had gone to the village’s rescue when Pitch attacked again. He then decided to stay in Santoff Claussen, and became their wizard Ombric Shalazar’s apprentice.

The Spirit of the Forest was just one of the magical barriers their wizard had devised to protect the village when he first created it. He’d also conjured up a hundred-foot-tall hedge, the great black bear the size of a house, and the majestic oaks that blocked the advance of anyone who tried to enter Santoff Claussen with ill intent. But none of these had been able to protect the children from the shadows and Fearlings at Pitch’s command.

Petter and his friend Fog began crossing stick swords with each other, acting out the battle that took place when Nicholas St. North had come face-to-face with Pitch.

Everything they knew and loved had seemed lost until North had galloped up to the rescue on Petrov. Though badly wounded, North had been able to drive Pitch away, but the children all worried that the Nightmare King would return. At this very moment Ombric, North, and their friend Katherine were far from Santoff Claussen, searching for the weapon—some sort of relic!—that would conquer Pitch forever.

The youngest William was near tears. “I’m afraid. Pitch told us he would come back.”

“North, Ombric, and Katherine will find a way to stop him,” Petter told him reassuringly.

William the Absolute Youngest wasn’t entirely convinced. “But Pitch’s magic is strong. What if it’s stronger than Ombric’s?”

“What does Ombric always say?” Petter asked.

The youngest William thought for a moment, then his eyes grew bright. “Magic’s real power is in believing,” he proclaimed, clearly pleased to remember Ombric’s very first lesson.

And he began to chant. “I believe! I believe! I believe!”

Sascha joined in. “I believe! I believe! I believe Katherine and North and Ombric will come home!”

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide for

E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the
Earth's Core
(part of the Guardians series)

by William Joyce

Discussion Questions 

1.  William the Absolute Youngest commented that he was afraid Pitch’s magic might be stronger than Ombric’s magic. He was reminded of what Ombric always said, “Magic’s real power is in the believing.” When one watches a magic show and understands how the “trick” is performed, does the “magic” disappear? 

2.  Who was in charge of the library when Ombric was away? What qualifications did this character possess to take care of the library?

3.  While Ombric was away from his village, he was able to see and comfort the children and villagers. How did he communicate with the village? How did he comfort each individual child?  What are ways we can communicate with and see others from great distances?

4.  North sent a package to every child. Every package was special to that child. What was North able to do to make these presents perfect for each child? 

5.  What was in the big box? What was so special about this present?

6.  Katherine had made a magical sketchbook which allowed the drawings and words she wrote to come alive on the page. Is this so magical? Do some stories just come to life in your mind as you read them? Can you visualize the action and setting if the descriptions are written well enough? Is it important to have an imagination?

7.  Discuss the statement, “A friend who understands everything without being told is the rarest and best kind of friend.”

8.  Katherine was drawn to the orphaned snow goose egg whose parents could not be found. What connection did Katherine feel toward the egg? Why was she so saddened by this orphaned egg? What did she do with it?

9.  The Man in the Moon presented Nicholas St. North with a sword. What made this sword so special? North felt the sword had hidden properties. How did North discover what these properties were? Why was it important for North to know what the sword was capable of doing?

10.  When North practiced using the sword given to him by the Man in the Moon he managed to win against all who fought with him. North was bothered by this. Why would anyone be bothered by winning?

11.  The Lamas had a clock that allowed one to travel back in time. Ombric used the clock to try to determine where the four relics from the last battle of the Golden Age fell to earth. He was hoping the relics would increase the odds of defeating the Nightmare King, Pitch.  If you were allowed to use this clock, where would you go and what would you do? Remember that you can’t change history. As E. Aster Bunnymund would say, “Naughty, naughty!”

12.  How did such a valiant soldier as Pitch become so evil? Can the environment in which one lives have an effect? Could there have been a way to prevent Pitch from becoming evil? Explain.

13.  The Lamas’ castle tower transformed into a rocket that was extremely fast and accurate. It was used only for extreme emergencies, and hadn’t been used in thirty thousand years. Can you think of a situation which would require such drastic measures? What rules and instructions should be there so that this tower would not be misused?

14.  Define fear. What makes fear such a powerful emotion? Even the Spirit of the Forest showed fear in her eyes when Pitch and the Fearlings came to the village. Can outrage overcome fear? Is there anything else that can combat fear? 

15.  Nightlight has no fear. He normally does not speak, yet he said to Pitch, “We fear you none!” and then he laughed. This made Pitch mad. Why does Nightlight have no fear? What makes Pitch mad, the laughter or the statement “We fear you none,” or both?

16.  During a scuffle in Ombric’s library, the moonbeam was injured. He told Ombric that Nightlight said his game was most tricky and to never fear.  Moonbeam admitted that he had a “scaredy feeling” but was stronger by the telling of the tale. Does telling about one’s fears help? If it does, why?

17.  Ombric, North, and Katherine became very close friends. They seemed to be able to sense each other’s thoughts. Is it possible to know someone so well that one can communicate with another without speaking? What is so special about friendship?

18.  How did the children’s strength against Pitch strengthen Nightlight, which in turn brightened his light?

19.  When Pitch touched Nightlight, Pitch’s hand turned to a flesh color. Discuss the implications of this change.

20.  What is a bovine? Who is the intergalactic bovine creature that on occasion jumps over the moon?

21.  North is intrigued by E. Aster Bunnymund’s choice of surrounding himself with what tempts him the most—chocolate.  Why does North find this so important? What does it tell you about E. Aster’s personality? What happens to E. Aster Bunnymund when he eats chocolate?

22.  As Nightlight was kept captive by Pitch in the lead cage, Nightlight’s light began to dim as the lead absorbed it. Unknown to Pitch, someone else was in the cage. Who was in the lead prison with Nightlight? What did this creature do to brighten Nightlight’s light?

23.  North and Katherine arrived at Easter Island and met E. Aster Bunnymund. When they asked for help, E. Aster Bunnymund was not interested in helping. North decided to find the relic using his sword. After he found the relic he attempted to take it but was stopped by E. Aster Bunnymund. What did North learn of the origin of the egg relic? What was so special about the egg?

24.  Katherine was able to convince E. Aster Bunnymund to assist them by telling him that Pitch and the fearlings don’t like chocolate. She wasn’t sure that was true, but it sounded good. Is it right to tell a lie to convince someone’s change in mind? Did her lie help her get what she wanted?  What is she learning if this is true? Is it ever acceptable to lie?

25.  North and E. Aster argued over who was going to rescue the children Pitch had captured. The argument stopped when Kailash walked into the room. How did her arrival change the situation? Who benefited from her arrival, North and Katherine, E. Aster Bunnymund, and/or Kailash?

26.   E. Aster Bunnymund has not had contact with humans in many years and he is the last of the Pookas. He insists he must work alone. Has he been alone for so long he doesn’t remember what friendship is or how to work with others? Is it hard to work with others? Do you have to be friends to work well together?

27.  Pitch’s lair was described as being “like the fabled box of Pandora.” What was Pandora’s box and how did this help to describe Pitch’s lair?

28.  Pitch had discovered a new way to make his Fearlings more powerful and able to go out into the daylight. As the children uncover what Pitch was up to, they become scared. Petter reminds the children that if they are afraid, it only makes Pitch stronger. How could that happen? What can they do to help themselves be brave?

29.  E. Aster Bunnymund found himself getting excited about having an adventure with North and Katherine. He thought that there was something to be said about having an adventure. What did he mean by this? 

30.  As Katherine looked at Pitch’s locket, she wondered if the locket might be a more powerful weapon than daggers. What was her reasoning for this? What experience in her life brought her to this conclusion?

31.  Compare and contrast the Fearlings before and after they have their armor. What were they able to do after they had the armor that they couldn’t do before? Are they more dangerous.

32.  During the very chaotic fight in Pitch’s lair, Katherine, North, and Bunnymund realized they needed extra help from Ombric. How were they able to communicate their need to Ombric during the battle? How did their need help Ombric regain his strength? Are there other stories where people are able to communicate in the same way as these friends?

33.  Several times during tense moments, North tells jokes. What is the purpose of these jokes? How do they help the circumstances the characters are in? 

34.  North had been taught by the Cossacks “to let the villain make the first move.” Is this good advice? Why or why not?

35.  When Pitch was trying to enslave the children again, North jumped between them. Rather than try to use the sword as he normally would, this time North commanded the sword to do what needed to be done. What had North learned about his sword? Was this something he learned through his experiments in the beginning of his studies of the sword? Was this something that he was told the sword would do? How did he know what to do with his sword in this particular moment?

36.  At the climax of the battle, instead of killing Pitch, Katherine had a different idea. How did she manage to end the battle without any of the main characters being killed? Was this an appropriate solution? Should she have let the others kill Pitch and be done with him? Why or why not?

37.  Katherine discovered the importance of writing to help her understand and heal. This new force within her allowed her to view her life in a new way. Have you ever had a sense of relief as you write? Does writing help you to organize your thoughts so you can understand things better? Are there other ways in which one can express one’s thoughts to better understand something or to help oneself heal from an experience? Compare how the children deal with their experiences to how Katherine does.

38.  Discuss what Nightlight had always known, “that taking the sorrows of those you love makes you stronger in the end.”

39.  How have the adventures of Katherine, North, Ombric, Nightlight, and E. Aster Bunnymund made them all close friends? Do shared experiences always bring people closer to one another? How has E. Aster Bunnymund adjusted to having friends after so many years alone?


1.  Research how quickly a human being grows at different stages of life. Kailash was growing at 2 – 3 inches per day. How quickly do geese mature? Is it possible for a human to grow 2 – 3 inches a day? Does Kailash fit the description of a snow goose? Compare and contrast the different rates of growth.

2.  Locate the Himalayan Mountains on a map. Find the Kailash Mountain. Are there any interesting stories about this mountain?

3.  Have the students research Pookas. What is their origin? Are there any famous stories or movies about a rather large rabbit pooka?

4.  Consider the different personalities of Ombric, North, and Katherine. What characteristics do they share? What are each one’s strengths? To help with the discussion, make a chart listing the characteristics. Do any of the characteristics enhance/complement someone else’s?

5.  Pitch uses lead to encase Nightlight and the children. What are the properties of lead?  What could happen if the children were left in a lead cage? Is lead dangerous?

6.  Have the students research the story of Pandora’s box. Once they have read the story, have the students write an adaptation of the story for a play. Allow the students to perform the play.

7.  Assign students to work together on a project but be sure that the students are not working with their usual partners. Ask the students how it was to work with partners they did not know. How did they decide who would do what, and was it done equitably? Did it take time to learn each other’s strengths? Compare and contrast how they felt to how E. Aster Bunnymund must have felt deciding to work along with North and Katherine.

8.  Have the students use their imagination and write a story about the ten-foot-tall warrior eggs. Have them include details such as their origin, how were they raised, how they learned to be warriors, when the last time was that there was a need for their expertise, how did they felt about going to war.

9.  Bunnymund’s train stopped as smoothly as a duck landing on a pond. This is an example of a simile. Discuss what a simile is and its use in writing. Have the students make a list of similes. 

10.  Discuss what a myth is. Have the students write their version of a myth of E. Aster Bunnymund and how he transforms to become a warrior. Include in the myth a version of the war against Pitch, the importance of chocolate, and the Pookan war cry.

11.  Research mental telepathy: is it real? What is a mind meld? Is mental telepathy similar to a mind meld? Beside the Pookan Mind Meld, what other stories use mind melds? Are they done in a similar way as the Pookan one?

12.  Have the students research Yetis and abominable snowmen. Are they real? What documentation is available on them? Have the students write persuasive arguments either for or against Yetis and Abominable Snowmen and their existence. 

13.  Have the students reenact the famous battle scene between North and Pitch. Allow the students to make the costumes and props. Have the students perform their play for other students. Reward their efforts with chocolate.

14.  Nicholas St. North gave each child in the village a present that, when opened, gave that child what he or she wanted.  Have the students write an essay on what they would wish for from Nicholas St. North and why they wished for that particular present.

15.  Compare the Easter Island that North and Katherine found to the Easter Island of today. 

Visit for downloadable activities, videos, and more.

Guide prepared by Lynn Dobson, librarian at East Brookfield Elementary School, East Brookfield, MA.

This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

photograph (c) Tony Reans

William Joyce does a lot of stuff but children’s books are his true bailiwick (The Guardians series, Dinosaur Bob series, George Shrinks, and the #1 New York Times bestselling The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is also his Academy Award–winning short film, to name a few). He lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. Talk to William Joyce and see upcoming work on Instagram.

About The Illustrator

photograph (c) Tony Reans

William Joyce does a lot of stuff but children’s books are his true bailiwick (The Guardians series, Dinosaur Bob series, George Shrinks, and the #1 New York Times bestselling The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is also his Academy Award–winning short film, to name a few). He lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. Talk to William Joyce and see upcoming work on Instagram.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (September 4, 2018)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442430518
  • Ages: 7 - 11

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