Recently, I had a chance to listen to a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman, admirably performed by the author himself. The collection included:
- The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
- The Wolves in the Walls
- Crazy Hair
THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS is sure to become a new favorite in my family. My youngest, age 8, has already requested repeat performances. It’s easy to imagine why Lucy, the plucky heroine of Wolves, struck my daughter’s fancy. She’s got an ear for danger, crawls through walls, and doesn’t take kindly to carnivores in her kitchen.
Our second favorite was THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH. The title and its opening lines had me immediately thinking of Dr. Seuss’ THE CAT IN THE HAT. But the young protagonist of Goldfish needs no tall hated feline accomplice to create his own brand of trouble. If this kid and the Duck from Doreen Cronin’s CLICK, CLACK, MOO, COWS THAT TYPE ever get together — Look Out!
The CD also includes an interview with Gaiman, which I particularly enjoyed. The interviewer was none other than Gaiman’s unbelievably adorably voiced daughter, Maddy, who asked her dad great questions such as “Why did you want to write for kids as well as adults?” and “What’s your favorite story?” We get to hear Gaiman’s answers, which include all kinds of neat extras, like the fact that Gaiman briefly considered being an astronaut and a rock-n-roll star before settling on writing 😉 and what it’s like to work with his illustrator, Dave McKean. This brief interview was, for me, the gem of the CD. The rapport between the father and daughter duo was cute and the fact that the interviewer was not only a kid herself but also his daughter gave the interview added interest and meaning for both me and my kids. My daughters thought Maddy was almost as cool as her dad.
With its references to vikings, fjords, longships, and sea raids, the beginning of this story felt like the wonderful HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, although Gaiman wrote this story well before Dreamworks’ 2010 movie. Instead of dragons, Gaiman’s tale incorporates other mythical and magical creatures — Norse gods and giants.
Odd, the main character, has a lucky name but an unlucky background. After his wood-cutter father was killed at sea, Odd took his dad’s best ax out into the forest and tried to chop down a tree. His leg was crushed in the accident that followed and now he’s crippled and walks with a wooden crutch. It makes walking through snow and ice, and up and down mountains, challenging.
The story opens during one particularly cold and long winter, one that simply will not end. Odd’s fellow villagers are getting restless — and mean. Odd knows something must be done. So he sets out one morning in late March with a side of smoked salmon, a glowing ember, and an ax, and heads for his father’s old wood cutting hut.
During his travels, he meets a fox, a bear, and an eagle. They are more than they appear though and, through them, Odd will be given the chance to battle giants, save a city, and — if he can harness some of the luck his name should have given him — restore peace and usher in the spring.
I very much enjoyed ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS. Gaiman is an excellent audio performer, Odd is a sympathetic character, and the story unfolded at a nice, unhurried pace. Perfect for a 90 minute car ride.
So, how about you? Are you a Neil Gaiman fan? Do you read his adult stuff, kid stuff, or both? What’s your favorite story of his? Do you listen to audio books? Have any recommendations?
- Fiction Fridays #13: The Wolves in the Walls (childledchaos.wordpress.com)