Sage Advice: Instructions by Neal Gaiman and Charles Vess
Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before.
Say please before you open the latch.
Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat nothing.
However, if any creature tells you it hungers, feed it.... If it cries to you that it hurts, if you can, ease its pain.
A young traveler, a puss in boots knight errant, begins a quest, a journey in which he sees many things, both novel and yet known, in a narrative in which there is the threat of danger and yet, dreamlike, there is no fear.
The deep well you walk past leads to Winter's realm. There is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here, you can walk back safely. You will lose no face.
I will think no less of you.
Neil Gaiman's narrator guides the wanderer in a quest which leads him past images from familiar folk and fairy tales--an old woman in a wood who gives advice, a youngest princess who cannot be trusted, dragons who have, always, one vulnerable spot, and witches whose appetites always undo them. There are wolves whom you can trust with everything but your destination, a ferryman to whom you pass on the key to his freedom, and an eagle whose feather you must keep and whose back is yours upon which to soar.
Along the way there is good advice: "Do not be jealous of your sister. Know that diamond and roses are uncomfortable they tumble from your lips." "Don't forget your manners," and "trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn."
And at the mission's end, the quest becomes a homecoming.
Return the way you came. Do not look back....
When you reach the little house, the place where your journey started, you will recognize it, although it will seem much smaller than you remember.
And then go home. Or make a home. Or rest.
Poet-storyteller and Newbery Award winner Neil Gaiman's Instructions (Harper, 2010), set to Charles Vess' gorgeous and endlessly evocative illustrations flow like a vision set to the music of the simple but lyrical text of this allegorical picture book. Although the allusions in text and art benefit from some grounding in literature, their elemental nature make this book a rich experience for youngsters of all ages, even those now adults.
Gaiman, author of Newbery winner The Graveyard Book and the graphic novel/movie Coraline (Single-Disc Edition w/ 3D) has a prodigious talent for seamlessly blending the fantastic and fabular with the human story, and this picture book is a beautiful way to begin to experience that gift.
Labels: Fantasy (Grades 2-8)