The Sleeper and The Spindle by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by C. Riddell


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Started: October 13, 2015

Finished: October 13, 2015

Format/*Category/Genre:  Novelette, Classic Fairy Tale Literature Mash-up, Fantasy

Published: 2013

Awards: None that I could find, but I found this surprising.

Pages: 70

Themes: Jealousy, Good vs Evil, Courage

Rating: 4 Stars

Age/Interest Range: 9th Grade and Up

Maggots, and dwarfs, and sleeping sickness, OH MY! If you “get” Neil Gaiman, you will easily enjoy this novelette. The illustrations and classic fairy tale themes will draw you in, and if you’re like me you’ll want to stay.

“…the flesh went rainbow colored and the carcass began to stink and crawl with blueflies and maggots. Now she butchered the larger animals midwinter…”

Yum? Okay, this hand picked line doesn’t have a lot to do with the story, but this gives you an idea of what you’re in for with Gaiman’s writing. There’s nothing too gross to describe.

So what is this story actually about? Three dwarfs (of “The Seven” is implied) and a Queen (Snow White – again, implied) set out on a mission to stop a magical sleeping curse that is spreading across the land. Rumor has it that A witch! A bad fairy! An enchantress! cursed a baby princess over 80 years ago at her birth celebration feast. This baby was doomed to prick her finger at age 18 and sleep forever. Any of this sounding familiar?

The deviation from the stories we are familiar with includes the aforementioned spreading magical sleeping sickness. The curse is causing people/animals to just…fall asleep. They don’t age, they don’t starve, but they do talk in their sleep and some even change positions to get more comfortable. People are succumbing to the curse by the thousands, and the curse is getting closer and closer to the Queen’s homeland. The Queen is suppose to wed in just hours, and she is not excited about this. So she and her 3 dwarf friends head off to investigate the spreading jinx, thus postponing her regal wedding.

The black and white sketch-like drawing technique fits perfectly with the numerous cobwebs needed to communicate the lengthy sleeping. The intermittent gold embellishments draw your eyes to insane details and features. The vellum book jacket adds depth and mystery, and don’t get me started on the hyper detailed end pages! The illustrations are an essential piece of the story. Gaiman’s descriptions are brought to life via Ridell’s art.

I appreciated the lack of a prince in this story, who typically sweeps in to save the day. The unexpected twists and subtle ambiguous-ness heightens this books literary merit. If  you aren’t a Neil Gaiman fan, well… Have you tried The Ocean at the End of the Lane? The Graveyard Book? Definitely give those two a chance before cracking this open. I suggest this not because I don’t think The Sleeper and the Spindle isn’t a quality read, I just think this story is more valued after having a taste for Gaiman’s writing style.

Overall Literary Merit: SOME, and if a teacher is a lover of Gaiman then, HIGH

Classroom Possible Uses: Picture books (or heavily illustrated novelettes in this case) have purpose in a high school literature classroom. This book would provide a great example of how well-known story lines have potential to be reworked. Additionally, Gaiman’s books, with the inclusion of this title, provide a great example of writing STYLE.


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