A young boy named Danny was in bed one night, trying to be a good boy and go to sleep. He heard a sound. As you know, that’s not unusual at all. Lying there in bed, alone, in the night, there can be all sorts of sounds. Scary sounds, there in the dark. He pulled up the blankets, and that’s when he noticed that along with the sounds … something was moving under those blankets. Just as Danny was about to jump from the bed and run, a long neck with a smiling face poked out shyly and said, “Hi, my name is Nicker.

It looked a little like a large snake – and a little like a dinosaur. Danny it knew it couldn’t be either. Snakes don’t talk, and Danny was pretty sure that if there were any dinosaurs around, they wouldn’t have much to say, either. That left just one thing.

“You’re a sea dragon!”

Nicker admitted that he was, and that’s where it all began.

The two very quickly became friends, then best friends. They shared everything. They even shared a birthday. This is February 12th, so mark that on your calendar. We will all celebrate together! I can tell you, if you’ve never been to a sea dragon birthday party, you’re in for a treat! So, get out the calendar. Find February. Find the 12. Circle it in red and write, “Nicker’s and Danny’s Birthday.” Do it now so you don’t forget.

Fair warning, though. Nicker can be a bit of a trouble maker. He doesn’t mean to be. He just gets silly or overly curious. Things happen and then he hides and leaves Danny having to explain, “Uh, well … uh, it was this way.”

I’ll tell you part of one story.

Nicker had found an island, so he and Danny went there for a picnic. As you might suspect, Nicker’s favorite food is peanuts. He found a bush with yellow berries and began to gobble them. They sure weren’t peanuts. They were scary-berries! If you know anything about scary-berries, you will know what happened. Nicker tried to run away and hide. Danny ran after to help. In the end, they somehow got under the bed, knocked off the mattress, which knocked off the lamp on the nightstand, which slammed into the closet, and… And, there was Danny on top of the mattress, on the floor, in a real mess. Mom came in to wonder what all the noise was. Nicker, so good at hiding, disappeared.

Can you imagine trying to explain that? The whole bedroom was a wreck, Nicker was gone, and all Danny could explain was, “Uh, well… uh, it was this way.”

That wasn’t the first –or last– time that Nicker got Danny into having to explain something. For example, there was the time when Nicker snuck into the grocery store and…

What a mess!

Nicker’s mother is Emily. She’s quite large, but I think you would like her. She calls Danny “dear” and is ever so sweet and patient. She will probably offer to make you a sea apple pie, or perhaps some starfish on toast. (“You should put that recipe in Lunch With Nicker, Gene,” she just told me – and perhaps I will.)

Simon, the father, is another matter. His job is to patrol the oceans for “bad creatures” and he has the power to do that very well. His voice can make your chest rumble down inside. Those jaws can bite through the side of a mountain as easily as you’d bite through a potato chip.

Arful came to the family after he bumped his head so hard that he lost his memory. You know what it is like to forget something. Poor Arful forgot everything, except how to swim very fast. In fact, he is the world’s fastest creature. Not even Simon could catch him, until Danny and Nicker helped. After that, Arful joined the Sea Patrol – but still hasn’t learned to slow down enough to listen first, THEN swim.

Do you like babies? Danny sure does, and nicely enough, Glicker becomes part of the family. Danny teaches her how to talk and all about manners. He’s in for a surprise, though. Glicker is a baby, just as a kitten is a baby, but Glicker is no kitten.

Gordie. No, THE Gordie. There is just one. He is Simon’s father, and is now retired from the Sea Patrol. Simon learned most of what he knows from the Gordie. Simon will grumble in that deep voice and the bad creatures want to run away. All the Gordie has to do is show up and not even say a word. Danny and Nicker were very nervous around him. At least they were until the Gordie began to tell funny stories about when Simon was young and got a starfish stuck on his nose.

Edie is Danny’s grandmother. He calls her Nana, but we can call her Edie. She loves picnics even more than Danny does, especially when they are by the lake near her home. Naturally, the lake is Lake Edie . A very curious Nicker was snooping and almost got in trouble there with a goose. Then the goose found itself facing a rather upset Emily coming up out of the lake (and then found out what it’s like to be a weed-wacker after being shoved by the nose of an upset mama sea dragon).

That’s the cast for the first book, but sure isn’t all of them. Later you will meet the brothers Ben and Gammy. They came to us from the rivers and channels in and around Chicago (you’ll have to ask Danny about that) and ended up getting lost. A teen-aged cousin, Slicker, helps Simon chase and capture bad creatures. He gets his name because his voice is sort of a hissing.

Tom, Mr. Midnight and the mysterious lady under the mountain aren’t really part of the family. These are stories Danny and Nicker liked me to tell them. Tom is a young boy, much the same age as Danny and Nicker. Mr. Midnight is a very strange creature who lives in Tom’s closet. Together they have adventures. In one of these they find a lady who lives in a cave beneath a mountain along with hundreds of pets of all kinds. (She also has a secret underground ocean that flows all the way to Tucson!)

Of course, in Nicker’s Story Hour you’ll find yet other stories, such as those about Dr. McBushy and Baron Wigglebottom. They live in the forest at the edge of Lake Edie along with the other squirrels, and with all the other animals.

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