18 October, 2021

LitStaff Pick: Children’s Book Authors Who Speak to Adults, Too

Neil Gaimanneil-gaiman

Believe it or not, Neil Gaiman writes children’s books. Now, now. I know what you’re thinking. Neil Gaiman? The guy in perpetual black? The dude who has fans that tattoo characters to their arms and follow him around the country? The Sandman guy? Yeah. THAT guy. Children’s books.

Interestingly enough, I came to Neil Gaiman through one of those same kid’s books – The Graveyard Book. I had an assortment of titles hanging around my bookshelf, but it was The Graveyard Book that actually converted me to a Gaimanite. Here is the story of a young boy, Bod, raised by spirits in the graveyard. I loved the idea from the beginning and the world Gaiman created both in the cemetery and without absolutely transported me. It was like reading a campfire story – an old fashioned ghost story that actually involved ghosts.

I picked up his other children’s books and decided that they were very much NOT just for kids. Instructions, my personal favorite, is a guide in case you ever get lost in a fairy tale. I heard somewhere that it was originally written as a wedding toast to a young couple.  In fact, when I read it to my daughter, she looked at me confused and didn’t really get the whole “going on a journey” thing.  For me, it was magical. It was the fantasy genre’s answer to Suess’s graduation gift staple, Oh the Places You Will Go!

Blueberry Girl, a prayer for young girls everywhere, speaks more to the heart of a mother – or in this case, father – than to the child who it is read to. While children will delight in the pictures and sing-song quality of the verse, the message of the book is clearly intended for parents, or anyone who cares for a young child.

Help her to help herself, help her to stand;

Help her to lose and to find.

Teach her we’re only as big as our dreams;

Show her that fortune is blind.

It’s a beautiful, heart-felt poem. But while the pictures make it a book for kids, this is clearly one of the ones you hand to a new parent.

With five kids of my own, I’ve read a lot of picture books. There are some that I’ve read over and over again in mind-numbing, sleep-deprived monotone. Gaiman’s stories, virtually all of them, are more like my books that I share with my kids – not the other way around. You don’t need to be a Sandman fan or an American Gods groupie to get into his kid lit. They might be about kids, there might be bright colorful pages, but their messages come across to grownups as easily as to the Sesame Street group.

You should read all of Neil Gaiman’s  stuff as well. But if you haven’t, start with his children’s books. You won’t be disappointed

-Adina Ciment

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