Perhaps, like several CG staffers (most notably yours truly), you are thrilled about attending Neil Gaiman's lecture at MIT this evening. Perhaps, in preparation, you are frantically re-reading Neil's work for grown-ups, including American Gods and its companion Anansi Boys, Neverwhere, Stardust, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), short story collections Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things, and two-thousand-plus-page graphic opus Sandman. If this is the case, we applaud you and your clearly awesome taste in adult literature.
But perhaps (perish the thought!) you are unfamiliar with Neil's work for children. If this is the case, never fear! We'll fill you in with our first author spotlight. These books are essential reading for everyone who loves quirky, witty kids' books, not just the Gaiman completist.
The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish are two picture books illustrated by Neil's favorite collaborator, Dave McKean. In New York Times Best Illustrated Book The Wolves in the Walls, Lucy's family warns her that if the wolves ever come out of the walls, it's "all over." When the wolves do come out, Lucy learns that the trouble is just starting. The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish follows a convoluted sequence of swaps in the playground bartering system. Once the narrator decides it's time to get Dad back, he's already been re-swapped for a guitar! Both books are charmingly bizarre and bursting with the crazy genius only a Gaiman/McKean collaboration can achieve.
The newest of Neil's picture books is The Dangerous Alphabet, illustrated by Gris Grimly, which we recently raved about. The Dangerous Alphabet combines alphabet book and pirate tale into one whimsically creepy adventure.
Coraline, illustrated by McKean, is the first of Neil's middle-grade novels. Sometimes when Coraline opens the door in the corner of her new flat's drawing room, it opens on a brick wall dividing her apartment from the one next door. Sometimes, though, it reveals an uncanny copy of her flat, occupied by her Other Mother and Other Father. Navigating the world created by the Other Mother aided by the questionable advice of a talking cat and her own smarts, Coraline learns that "when you're scared but you still do it anyway, that's brave." The Coraline audio book, read by the author himself, is deliciously spooky. Our a sneak peek at the upcoming graphic novel adaptation assured us that the Coraline comic will be as well.
In the middle-grade sci-fi novel Interworld, written with Michael Reaves, Joey Harker walks out of his world, into another dimension, and smack into a war between science and magic. When Joey realizes that each dimension he discovers has a Joey Harker of its own, all the versions of Joey band together to protect the universe from the warring factions. The novel makes a fascinating companion to Coraline, since it's populated with "other selves" rather than other parents or acquaintances.
The Graveyard Book, a novel coming out this September, tells the story of a young orphaned boy who is raised by strangers -- ghostly strangers haunting a graveyard. After reading the excerpt "The Witch's Headstone" in M Is for Magic, we can't wait for this one to be released this fall!
M Is for Magic collects kid-friendly short fiction from Neil's wide repertoire into a single volume. From the hilarious "Chivalry," in which elderly Mrs. Whitaker discovers the Holy Grail in her local thrift store, to the touching poem "Instructions" on "what to do if you ever find yourself in a fairy tale," these stories are gems. One of our favorites is "Sunbird," wherein a group of gourmands travels to Cairo in search of that elusive delicacy, phoenix. Hear Neil read several of these stories in their entirety at Last.fm.
Some other kid-friendly Gaiman fun online:
- Listen to Neil being interviewed by his 11-year-old daughter Maddy.
- Read a short story entitled "Cinnamon."
- Get info about BEA's Children's Book and Author Breakfast with Neil, Sherman Alexie, Judy Blume, master of ceremonies Eoin Colfer, and special speaker Jon Scieszka, happening next weekend. (If you're going, please take us with you!)
- Check out MouseCircus, the HarperCollins website for Neil's books for kids.
Signing off now to head over to the event -- hope to see you there!