In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why I don't like Neil Gaiman's picture books

Dear Aunt Debbie,

I have to admit it: I don't like the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean picture books.  I want to like them -- I read all of Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels in college, and went on to enjoy Good Omens, his satirical collaboration with Terry Pratchett (very funny, very Douglas Adams in tone).  Eleanor and I both loved Odd and the Frost Giants; in fact, Eleanor recently asked me if there were any more books about Odd.

I think it may be largely a question of illustrations.  Gaiman's writing has a wit and warmth about it, a sense of humor that I enjoy.  Dave McKean's illustrations creep me out.

They're technically beautiful: combinations of drawing and collage and photograph, a melding of different styles, lots of dynamic movement.  But there is something very inhuman about his people: the eyes which are nothing but pupil, the shadows and angular lines.  They're not pictures I want to look at, and they're not pictures I much want Eleanor and Isabel to see either.  For me, they overwhelm Gaiman's wit.

This is true more for The Wolves in the Walls than for The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, which we just received from you in the most wonderful Isabel Birthday Box.  I haven't read it to Eleanor yet, but the interesting thing is that she saw it and didn't immediately ask me to, as she did ask me to read her every other book in the box. 

About a year ago, we took another Gaiman/McKean collaboration out of the library.  Crazy Hair is a poem, and an exercise in hyperbole:

"In my hair
Gorillas leap,
Tigers stalk,
And ground sloths sleep.
Prides of lions
Make their lair
Somewhere in my crazy hair."

The text is kind of cool.  The drawings are kind of creepy.  Eleanor had zero interest in the book -- didn't want to look at it, wouldn't even let me read it through once.  My mom looked through it and pronounced it slightly disturbing.

Perhaps we'll all feel differently when the girls get a little older, and enjoy a disturbing thrill.  For now, though, we are clearly not the Gaiman/McKean target audience.

Love, Annie

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you. My kids are older, and we made it through all three books, but our reaction at the end was "umm, ew?"

    They are things we thought we'd like but we didn't. Partly because the illustrations were creepy, but the text was as well, especially in the Dad/goldfish one.