Story by Neil Gaiman
Illustrations by Charles Vess
Published by Bloomsbury
I have to say that I am a massive fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, as well as the stories he conjured up with Dave McKean such as the brilliant “Violent Cases” and “Signal to Noise”, but this is the first time I have read a Neil Gaiman children’s book. I obtained a copy from my local library to read with my son, and in short it was a fun read with my son taking an instant liking to it. Even though it was not your ‘normal’ children’s book, and read more like a role playing game with a character resembling a cat going on a fantasy filled journey and meeting all manner of faerie folk, witches, trolls and animals. It spoke directly to the reader as if you were the character, with advice and what to do, and what not to – basically ‘Instructions’ as the title suggests. It spoke about some universal truths such as being true to one’s self, and trusting your dreams. There was a line where it said not to be jealous of one’s sister and it brought an instant chuckle from myself and a cheeky smile from my son as he is forever squabbling with his younger sister! Suffice to say he quickly fell in love with the book and upon finishing wanted to read it again.
Of course Gaiman’s storytelling was part of the reason why he liked it, but another was the beautiful lush illustrations by Charles Vess. I first encountered his work in “Rose”, the award winning prequel story to Jeff Smith’s magnificent “Bone” series. We spent a good deal of time just immersing ourselves in his artwork, it was a perfect match for the story filled with some mesmerising visuals. There were creatures and places to discover and explore, such as the troll beneath the tree bridge and the city beneath the well, scenes which brought a smile to both our faces and filled my sons mind with awe and intrigue. It is a book upon finishing, you can talk about with your child. As I stated prior it is not your traditional children’s story, but for my son it was something new. And one thing is for certain, he’ll remember it…and so will I.