I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s work. I probably don’t need to point that out in particular since it will no doubt be clear when I review The Graveyard Book, but I’ll throw it out there anyway.
My first exposure to his work was the audiobook version of Neverwhere, a book that caught my attention because of its title – after seeing that, I almost didn’t care what the description of the story was, I just knew I wanted to read it. (Though Katie never fails to point out that when I listen to audiobooks, I am not reading. Never mind that I have been playing the part of audiobook for the entire family for years as primary reader-alouder.)
Speaking of audiobooks, Gaiman does much of the reading of his own works, which is another thing I like about him. Listening to him read his own stories, I am struck by how similar his prose “voice” is to his own speaking voice. He tells his tales in a conversational, casually-sharing-information-between-friends way. Assuming, of course, that you have a well-read friend who includes literary allusions quite naturally as he makes wry observations about all of the curious things that surround us and who assumes that 6 impossible things will happen before breakfast.
Because of the – how do I describe it? – creepy? dark? scary? unusual? – nature of his work, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he wrote children’s books. And that in writing for children, he uses the same tone that he uses for adult books – he just reins in the language and imagery a bit. Or more than a bit.
I’m in favor of stories for kids that are a bit scary or weird. Literature is an instructive and safe way for them to find out that there are weird and scary things out in the world. It gives them a comfortable way to start thinking about them and making their plans on how to deal with the less comfortable aspects of life. And Gaiman’s stories are quite funny and touching, and those are the bits that stand out the most in the end. (okay, maybe some of the scary stuff sticks with you as well.)
But enough about what I think about stuff. Here are some author details:
Neil Gaiman was born in Hampshire, UK, and now lives in the US, near Minneapolis. The title of this post is from a quotation on his own website (cleverly named neilgaiman.com) regarding his own childhood. He says, “I wouldn’t be who I am without libraries. I was the sort of kid who devoured books, and my happiest times as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there. I discovered that librarians actually want to help you: they taught me about interlibrary loans.” It’s the type of thing that many people reading this blog might be happy to hear their children say. Gaiman is married to singer/songwrite Amanda Palmer, and has three children from a previous marriage.
It’s actually pretty easy to find information on Neil Gaiman since as his own site tells us, he has achieved “cult status” and receives a goodish bit of media attention, so if this post doesn’t answer any questions you may have, you can check out his blog, or follow him on twitter (@neilhimself). I’m sticking to a brief summary of the bio information on his website.
He began his career in England as a journalist. His first two books were biographies (of Duran Duran and Douglas Adams). He first collaborated with artist Dave McKean (illustrator of The Graveyard Book) on the graphic novel “Violent Cases”, which led to the series “Black Orchid”, which was published by DC Comics. His groundbreaking series “Sandman” followed, which ran for 75 issues and collected a lot of awards along the way. In 1991, “Sandman” became the first comic ever to receive a literary award (World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story). I checked “The Sandman” out of the library once, but couldn’t really read it. I used to be a huge reader of comics, but I seem to have lost the rhythm of it. I feel like I need to give it another chance.
Not only does he write for children and adults, comics and novels, Neil Gaiman also writes poetry, short stories, screenplays (television and film), song lyrics, and drama. Some of his other titles for kids include Coraline, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, The Wolves in the Wall and The Dangerous Alphabet. Katie and I have both read Coraline multiple times. Some of the others I will have to read because I like the titles.
Works for grownups include the aforementioned Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys and short story collections Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things. I have read most of these, several more than once. And just as a word of caution for parents, be aware of which Gaiman books your children are reading. His books for adults are definitely not appropriate for young children – some of it is language, a little bit of sexual references, but mostly heavier thematic elements that really wouldn’t appeal (or make sense) to kids younger than late high school anyway.
We’ll be getting on to a little bit about the illustrations later this week and then our reviews of The Graveyard Book, which we have both finished. I promise it won’t take us weeks to get to it this time!