Instructions: Everything You’ll Need to Know on Your Journey
by Neil Gaiman
illustrated by Charles Vess
Neil Gaiman first wrote the text for this delightful picture book in 2000, when it appeared in A Wolf at the Door, a collection of fairytales retold. It is a poem that is a set of instructions for what to do if you find yourself in the middle of a fairy tale. This 2010 edition, with illustrations by Charles Vess, has hit the shelves just in time for graduation season.
You’ve seen those editions of Dr. Seuss’s Oh! The Thinks You Can Think! that are packaged for gratuates, right?
I found this book as I stood in line at the University of Toronto Bookstore (I was buying a gift), and I think that it’s meant for graduates, too.
My own graduate is only five, and he will be getting his copy at his Kindergarten graduation.
I don’t think that you can do better than a set of instructions for life based on fairy tales:
Walk through the house.
However, if any creature tells you that it hungers, feed it.
If it tells you that it is dirty, clean it.
If it cries to you that it hurts, if you can, ease its pain.
What I love about this book is that Gaiman knows his literature so well that the text just teems with allusions. Hidden doors, deep wells, dark forests, hungry wolves, castles, cottages and knarled trees; they are all there with instructions on how to face them. Your hidden door can recall The Secret Garden or Prince Caspian or the Alice or Harry Potter books. The text will stretch to fit the reader and his or her own set of associations. The advice is still good: “go through.”