Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Fiction Fridays #13: The Wolves in the Walls

FF#13
The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (2003)

Lucy walked around the house.

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I’d not thought of reading Neil Gaiman to my girls because they are my books. Including the picture books! See how this is mine, it’s signed to ME! And I got it four years before my eldest was born…

Apparently this is a scary book. My girls, however, have been brought up on a diet of Scooby Doo and Doctor Who so this kind of ‘scary’ doesn’t bother them at all. The wicked stepmother in Snow White or wicked fairy in Sleeping Beauty? Terrifying, apparently. Monsters etc, no problem at all…

This looks like a scary picture to grown ups, but it’s not to children. That’s jam, you see, and if you read the book you know it’s jam, and what’s scary about wolves eating jam?

Which is not to say that there aren’t scary images in the book, depending on your definition of scary. For instance, a well-loved soft toy being left behind, well who wouldn’t find that terrifying?

This is typical Neil Gaiman in that it doesn’t talk down to children at all. And every strange happening is taken in a completely matter-of-fact manner: “We should go and live in the Arctic Circle,” said Lucy’s father. The Queen of Melanesia makes a brief cameo and of course Lucy, the youngest child, is the most sensible of them all. Partnered with Dave McKean’s atypical artwork, it makes for a picture book to stand out from the rest of the shelf.

Which are all things that make me love this book. But what about my two-and-almost-three-quarters year old and very-almost-five year old? This is a fairly long picture book, and my two girls sat silent and wrapped in the story the first time I read it to them. Afterwards I asked what parts they liked:
MG: When the wolves came out of the walls!
DG: Pig puppet!

DG’s two year old self of course being most concerned by the loss of a favourite toy and MG’s nearly five year old self loving the humour in the wolves. Pretty much spot-on developmentally I suspect…


On subsequent readings, they’ve still sat and listened intently but now with interjections from the eldest: “It’s all over!” MG is at a stage where she half-listens to books and then goes and draws whilst I continue reading (she is more interested in trying out her new reading skills and reading to us) and DG is definitely in a sensitive period for books as she regularly drops them on my lap demanding “You read it!” and “Again!” when I’ve finished.

I would hugely recommend this book, but some parents may find it too scary. The children should be fine though 😆

I suppose I’ll have to read my copy of The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish to my girls next then…

#3Books

Emily from A Mummy Too has set somewhat of an impossible challenge – choose three books you love most: one from childhood, one from adulthood, one as a parent.

Childhood
I stumble at the first hurdle: which part of childhood? How do you define “childhood”? I was reading adult novels as a pre-teen, but was a child until my twenties in other ways (not that I’ve ever truly grown up). In a quick burst of conciousness I could include: picture books listed here (and more besides); A Child’s Garden of Verses; The Hobbit; A Wizard of Earthsea; The Hounds of the Morrigan; The Wind on the Moon; The Ordinary Princess; Narnia; Enid Blyton; The Starlight Barking; Wolves of Willoughby Chase; The Snow Kitten; Asimov; Douglas Adams; Harry Harrison… and I’ve missed out so many.

I’m going to chose Dragons’s Blood (trilogy) by Jane Yolen. I borrowed it from the library when I was around 10 and it always stuck with me, to the extent I managed to track the trilogy down again to re-read in my early 20’s even though I couldn’t remember the author at the time. It’s set in a world where dragons exist and are bred for fighting, where there are two classes of people: free and bonded and it tells the story of how a bonded boy manages to raise his own dragon in secrecy. It’s a fully realised world containing politics, emotions and characters that stay with you forever. Now I’ve written this, I want to re-read them again (and get the fourth book which I’ve never read…)

Adulthood
Here I have the opposite problem to childhood: I read a lot of so-called children’s novels and then there’s my soft spot for vampire ‘young adult’ fiction 😆 I used to read at least one or two books a week but sadly those days seem long gone, maybe one day I’ll get back into reading as much as I used to…

My favourite authors for the bulk of my adulthood have been Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Other authors who have wowed me include Iain (M) Banks; Philip Pullman; Garth Nix… Far too many others, including non- SF/fantasy/horror books if you were wondering…

I’m going to chose Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A book by both my favourite authors, well it’s a no-brainer. It’s funny, intelligent, and… Oh, it’s just brilliant.

Parenthood
I’m avoiding choosing a children’s / picture book as I really can’t choose just one and I get to talk about those lots on this blog anyhow.

I’m going to choose How Children Learn by John Holt. It’s a very readable book based around a series of memos Holt wrote whilst he was working as a teacher. It not only gives a view on how education should (or shouldn’t) be but also lots to think about in how to parent too. John Holt obviously loved and respected children and is essential reading if you have anything to do with children in my opinion.

That was hard! Thank-you, A Mummy Too, I really enjoyed thinking about what to choose.

#3Books