Month: May 2015

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman is a master storyteller, and this skill is dramatically displayed in his recent, reimagined fairy tale The Sleeper and the Spindle.  In this revisioning of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, a young queen is waiting for her impending wedding.  Three dwarfs (one tall, one small, one middle-sized), journey to the wedding and stop at an inn on their way.  They hear a curious tale about a plague of sleep at a nearby castle.  They learn that long ago, a princess pricked her finger and–along with all of the other individuals in the castle–has been in a magical sleep for nearly sixty years.  Many people have tried to wake her but very few have made it past the thorns that now enclose the castle.

The dwarfs are amazed at the tale and wonder how people are trying to wake the princess:

“Wake her how?” asked the middle-sized dwarf, hand still clutching his rock, for he thought in essentials.

“The usual method,” said the pot-girl, as she blushed.  “Or so the tales have it.”

“Right,” said the tallest dwarf.   “So, bowl of cold water poured on the face and a cry of ‘Wakey!  Wakey!’?

“A kiss,” said the sot.  “But nobody has ever got that close.  They’ve been trying for sixty years or more.  They say the witch—“

“Fairy,” said the fat man.

“Enchantress,” corrected the pot-girl.

“Whatever she is,” said the sot.  “She’s still there.  That’s what they say.  If you get that close.  If you make it through the roses, she’ll be waiting for you.  She’s old as the hills, evil as a snake, all malevolence and magic and death.”

The dwarfs tell their queen about this tale, and she postpones the wedding to head to the castle to save the princess.

As you can see, the whimsical weaving of the two fairy tales—along with a few hints of other tales such as The Three Little Bears and Rapunzel, among others—is delightful and clever.  The twists and turns that Gaiman takes with the storyline add a feminist touch (no prince is going to save the day here), and illustrator Chris Riddell’s detailed black and drawings with gold metallic accents truly bring Gaiman’s words alive.  Read this piece out loud if you can, for it will help you savor each word and moment that Gaiman offers.  It is time well spent.

Here is a brief clip of Gaiman introducing the book.  I would suggest listening to the piece rather than watching it due to the bumpy footage:

If you have the time, I would also encourage you to view the following conversation between Gaiman and Art Spiegelman.  It’s not only intriguing but inspiring as well:

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

Summertime is filled with special moments—some are small and others big.  It’s amazing to think about how some of these memories manage to stay with us for our entire lives.  Such is the case in This One Summer, a graphic novel illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki.

Rose is on the edge of becoming a full-fledged teenager, and it seems as if this may be the last time her family makes the annual summer trip to Awago Beach.  Because her parents are fighting, she begins to realize that there is no way this vacation will be like the ones in years past.

Childhood memories don’t always stay the same, and Rose is learning that life changes can be hard.  Silly moments with friend Windy (who is indeed quite the whirwind) like gorging on gummies and playing in the sand are contrasted with frank discussions about burgeoning bosoms and degrading slurs.  Awkward moments with the older teens who live and work in Awago Beach highlight some of the things that Rose and Windy are on the edge of discovering themselves.  The girls try to bridge their gap of experience by renting numerous movies that push them out of their comfort zone, much like most of the interactions and revelations the girls are having.

It’s almost as if the girls are beginning to lose their childhood innocence but don’t know how to exactly react to the changes.  The artwork wonderfully illustrates the girls observing the swirl of activity around them yet also offers contemplative, succinct reflections.  As Jillian Tamaki explains, the book is about tension—between children and adults, men and women, city and rural, and summer life and real life.  There is also tension within the characters themselves as they try to negotiate new experiences and revelations.  As a reader, it is almost as if you get to experience these changes with Rose, for the artwork taps into your senses as you read.  It is obvious that Jillian knows Mariko well (they are cousins), for the powerful combination of Jillian’s visuals and Mariko’s words seem as if they were effortlessly fused together.

This One Summer is already gathering awards–it is the first graphic novel to receive the Caldecott Honor and is the second graphic novel to be named a Printz Honor book.  As an adult reader, I thoroughly enjoyed the nostalgic ride to the simpler time that clashed with the complexities of becoming an adult.  It was a bit reminiscent of Stand by Me when the narrator notes that “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.  Jesus, does anyone?”  Nope—we don’t, but that’s only one reason to remember this book.  The simple, marvelous tale will surely provide you with many more.

© 2017 Jill's Bookmark

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑