The sleeper and the spindle by Neil Gaiman
Ill. by Chris Riddell. Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN 9781408859643
(Ages: All) Highly recommended. Fairy tales. Adventure. Magic. A highly inventive and throughly enjoyable repositioning of two well known fairy tales is the basis for this offering from Gaiman and Riddell. It will hook readers from the start, as they recognise hints of various stories, following the different trails taken by the characters, some of whom are known and easy to spot while others take a little more liberty with the original stories. But all is fascinating, tantalising and highly readable as the Queen leaves her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding to free the neighbouring country from the sleeping plague which has descended. Along with three dwarves who have asked for her help, they shoulder the mountains, cross the moat and brave the thorny rose bushes encircling the castle. Once inside the princess's room, things take unexpected leaps as Gaiman turns the stories inside out. This is a captivating read, one sure to add a loyal band of followers to Gaiman's books, and encourage readings of other versions of fairy stories to compare it with. No teacher encouraging the reading of fairy tales should be without this book as it shines a new light on those stories half remembered, giving several a more modern tweak and adding different layers of meaning and interest along the way.
The story, enhanced with an array of lustrous illustrations showing all sorts of gargoyle-like creatures, along with the very alluring Queen and Princess, will enthrall the readers. Panels of illustrations line some pages while others cover a double page, framed with designs sure to draw in the many pairs of eyes already rivetted to the tale. The juxtaposition of both story and illustrations is mesmerising and I defy anyone not to take away a need to reread some more of Grimm's fairy tales.