While reading American Gods, and after talking to a couple friends who evidently love Neil Gaiman, I have unofficially dubbed 2014 the Year of Gaiman for myself. Prior to this year I had only read Neverwhere, which I did like, and I always hear wonderful things about Neil and he has QUITE a large body of work, stretching across formats, so I felt I should investigate further.
This is a collection of books for younger readers that I’ve checked out. I plan to take a little break for some other authors, but return to read Stardust, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and maybe some others before the year is up.
Precious little rhyming book with a message of encouragement and hope for little girls. I’m still not sure what the meaning of “blueberry girl” is exactly, but it sounds adorable anyway. I wanted to get this as a birthday gift for the daughter of one of my best friends, but the store I went to didn’t have it. I’ll need to keep it in mind to order online for Christmas. :) (As in, Megan, if you don’t already have this one, don’t get it yet!)
Fortunately, the Milk
Middle grade reader that I fell in love with immediately. It has a sort of Suess-ical whimsy, only a touch more weird, because, well, Neil Gaiman. Completely charmed by this little story that a dad supposedly made up for his children… or did he? His kids aren’t buying it, but I don’t know; he does have the milk as proof… A+++++++. Plus forever.
M is for Magic
This one is a short story collection, and unlike the others here, doesn’t appear to be intended for children, which I didn’t know prior to checking it out. No, this is definitely for an older audience. ;)
It grabbed me with the first story, “Four and Twenty Blackbirds,” which mashed several nursery rhymes together in this old detective story, complete with use of the word “dame,” trying to discover who murdered Humpty-Dumpty and why. It was neatly done, and gave me a few good laughs.
The other stories followed suit in that they took well-known lore, tweaking it just a bit, adding in a dash of humor, and per usual with Gaiman, a dash of creepy as well.
There were two stories that I just didn’t quite get. If anyone has read this collection, or read individually “October in the Chair” or “Instructions,” and has any thoughts on them, please share!
Geez, this man’s hair might as well be a planet for all the things it contains. :) Wasn’t overwhelmed by this one, but it was fun. The illustrations are really neat! They seem more artsy than I remember children’s books having when I was younger.
The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
This one was very cute! Our narrator did indeed swap his dad for two goldfish, and his mom is not happy about it. She tells him he must swap back, and cannot return home until he has his dad, but oh no! The kid he swapped with swapped his dad with another kid! and on the chain goes. Simple formula, but the variety was different – such as in the kids’ names and the items that were swapped.
And in the end, he promises to never swap his dad again… but mentions he didn’t promise anything about not swapping his little sister. Classic, and adorable.
This book probably had my favorite illustrations of the Gaiman children’s books I’ve read. The illustrator is the same as the one for Crazy Hair, but he does a slightly different style in this one.
The Wolves in the Walls
Apparently there’s a common phrase that goes, “If the wolves come out of the walls, then it’s all over.” Or, at least, Mr. Gaiman has convinced me that such a phrase exists. I’ve never heard it.
The same illustrator as the previous two books made these wolves look particularly scary, in my opinion, which ended up being hilarious, as the wolves weren’t dangerous per se – they merely chase the family out of their home so they can party. They are…party animals, you might say. (Shhhh. Don’t speak.)
I did find the text difficult to read at times, physically, because so many of the pages/illustrations are dark.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I like that Gaiman has a little girl as the heroine. The daughter is the one who tries to warn her family of the wolves, and she is the one who leads the way in taking their home back. Obviously, since it’s a children’s story, it has its ridiculous points – it’s a stretch that the parents would give up and just say they’re going to move. But the little girl is the one who saves the day!
Overall though, another good solid children’s book.
Odd and the Frost Giants
Wasn’t overwhelmed by this one, but it was sufficiently cute. Always love the folklore/mythology that Neil weaves into his works. I couldn’t help imagining Odd as a a quieter version of Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon, given the combination of him being a bit of a loner in his village, his leg injury, the unique name, and the Viking culture.
Shockingly, I knew almost nothing about this book going in. I knew that Tim Burton had a huge hand in the film adaptation, but I didn’t see the film when it came out, and I don’t even remember having seen a trailer. So I just knew there was a movie, and it was probably somewhat delightfully creepy, per Tim Burton.
and indeed it was! I wonder how different my reaction would have been reading this for the first time as child rather than as an adult. It wasn’t nightmare-inducing, but it was slightly disconcerting. Buttons for eyes on things that aren’t stuff animals? I think I shuddered just now, just remembering it. and the sort-of ghost kids held captive? and just the “other mother’s” attitude in general. Yeesh.
Very memorable characters, and vivid world description. There were a few pictures, but not too many as to overtake my imagination – I don’t know if that’s just the edition I had, if another may have had more pictures, I’m not sure. But I liked only having a few for inspiration and being able to build the setting in my mind on my own.
Loved that sassy cat especially.:)