Thursday, 28 August 2014

Neil Gaiman's teeny tiny children's books

Last week the major Swedish Sci-Fi book shop celebrated its 30th anniversary and as part of the celebration all orders from their Internet shop of over 300 SEK were free of postage. I decided to take advantage of that and do something I had planned for a really long time - order all of Neil Gaiman's teeny tiny children's books in one go. It went mostly well. They didn't have Crazy Hair, Melinda basically doesn't exist on the Internet and Chu's Day got out of stock before my order was dealt with. But those I did get were:
The Dangerous Alphabet
Chu's First Day of School
Blueberry Girl
The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
The Wolves in the Walls
So now I'm only missing Crazy Hair, Melinda and Chu's Day. I don't count Fortunately the Milk, Coraline, Odd and the Forst Giants, The Graveyard Book, M is for Magic, InterWorld or The Silver Dream among his teeny tiny children's books. The teeny tiny ones are the really thin ones with more pictures than text.

I had to read The Dangerous Alphabet thrice. Once to read the text. Twice to look at the pictures and the story told only in them. Thrice to find the secret within the book that Gaiman hinted towards in the opening. The text was pretty dull tbh, but the story told in the pictures alone was amazing and that's why Gris Grimly should have more credit than Gaiman for this book. The secret was pretty funny once I noticed it... And here I've gone and thought myself to know the alphabet really well! xD

Instructions was really good and I almost ended up seeinig it as an instruction book on what to have in a fantasy novel. It was an interesting story, almost like having put a dream on paper exactly as it unfolded. It was random and still made sense, just like dreams. Instructions is easily one of my favourites out of the six books I got today. The illustrations by Charles Vess made the strangeness of the dreamlike world yet stranger and somehow they made reading the book feel the same as I it did when I was little and read Elsa Beskow's books.

Chu's First Day of School was simply adorable and one I could definitely imagine a parent reading to a child the day before school starts for the first time. I don't remember my very first day of school, but I remember the nervosity of starting a new school and a new class, which I've done several times, and Chu's First Day of School shows that nervosity really well from a childish perspective. It went straight to my heart simply for being so adorable. If this is how I feel about the second book I wonder how I'll feel about the first one, Chu's Day, when I get my hands on that :) Adam Rex's illustrations are perfect and fitting and very imaginative :)

Blueberry Girl was presented as a prayer to a little girl. Gaiman explains in the end that he wrote it for Tori Amos before her daughter was born and with that perspective the book becomes really lovely. It's a children's book from an adult perspective and I'm not sure a young child would appreciate it, but for an adult with a childish mind it's absolutely perfect. Although I'm not a parent I can recognise a parent's hope for their child's future in a lot of the words, and it's simply brilliant. Once again Charles Vess brings that Elsa Beskow-ish feeling to the book, which gives it a whole new level.

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish was a classic tale of a child messing up and then spending the rest of the book trying to fix what he or she caused. It was the most fun one out of all the books and I can definitely recognise the bickering between brother and sister in the book. My sister and I did that all the time... It was pretty obvious how the book would end, but the way there was hilarious. (What's up with the Queen of Melanesia?) The illustrations by Dave McKean was amazing ofc (it's Dave McKean) and I could definitely re-read this one an infinite number of times without getting bored. The real story in the end of how this book came to be is also an interesting little tidbit that made the overall grade of the book go up one.

The Wolves in the Walls is my favourite out of the six books I got today. How is it even possible to fit that much story into so few pages? The story was intriguing and slightly spooky, and it pulled me in. Little Lucy was a perfect heroine and her parents and brother were just annoyances. Stupid annoyances who didn't take her seriously. I love how Gaiman managed to make it seem like the most natural thing to have wolves in your walls! Dave McKean's illustrations just added to the spookiness of the story and they fitted perfectly. This story had me smiling in the end, and I could take a dive into that story once again - no problems. I just wish it were longer... (Once again, what's up with the Queen of Melanesia?)

What gave me the idea to bunch buy all of Gaiman's picture books to begin with was when I bought Fortunately the Milk. It seemed silly, but I liked the cover text. The story was amazing. Immersive, hilarious and completely transported me into another world with a time travelling stegosaurus. I decided then and there that if he could make a book like that amazing, then I ought to get his other books for small children.

Having read these six my favourite children's books by Gaiman are now:
1). The Graveyard Book 2). Coraline 3). Fortunately the Milk 4). The Wolves in the Walls 5). Instructions

Now I wish I could bunch order all his graphic novels and comics as well, but they are a bit more pricey than teeny tiny children's books. So I'll probably have to get them one by one. 

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