The best children’s books stick in your head long past your childhood–and if you first encounter them as an adult, reading the stories to your own children, the tales transport you back to that time of childlike wonder and whimsy.
Harper Collins sent us two new children’s books by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is more than a writer, he is a creator of complex and absorbing fantasy universes. I’ve read most of his novels and graphic novels for adults and could not wait to share his books with my children. Then, he began to write children’s stories and I did not have to wait very long at all.
Although many of his first children’s books (The Graveyard Book and Coraline) are macabre chapter books and better suited for school-aged children, Blueberry Girl and Crazy Hair are perfectly kooky and charming reads for preschoolers.
Gaiman wrote Blueberry Girl as a prayer for the as of yet unborn baby of his friend, musician Tori Amos, but he taps into the universal hopes parents have for their little girls. My daughter, with her indigo eyes, enjoyment of blueberries, and love of owls, relates to the beautiful illustrations of brave and bold little girls. Coupled with Gaimain’s poem, the paintings bring the giddy rush of sunlit, barefoot days. I, too, wish that “Nightmares at three and bad husbands at thirty” will not trouble my daughter. And I confess I tear up as I read, “Teach her we’re only as big as our dreams.” While the word choice (paradox, for example) suggests this is more a gift for a new mother than a story for a baby, I like to think that my daughter will internalize the poem and aspire to grow full and confident. This enchanting book is destined to become a classic, sharing its blessing with generations of mothers and daughters.
Crazy Hair is an imaginative rhyming story about a man whose hair is so crazy, it contains an entire world of whimsy and wackiness.
Again, Gaiman drew inspiration from his relationships–this time the impetus for the poem was his daughter’s letter addressed to him as “Mr. Crazy Hair.” If you’ve seen photographs of Gaiman, you will find this description accurate.
Awaiting inside Gaiman’s hair, much like inside his mind, is a universe of discovery and wonder. A full cast of characters and entire ecosystems exist in this crazy hair. The delightfully off-kilter illustrations bring the right balance of excitement and fun to the adventures that await inside the crazy hair.
You may wish to wait to share this book with particularly sensitive toddlers–Bonnie is sucked into the crazy hair–but at its core the story is lighthearted and clever and should be suitable for most children over age three.
Reading Neil Gaiman’s children books after his works for adults reminds a reader that a good scary story taps into our inner child and that even children know that a little bit of danger is just part of the thrill.