The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Reviewed by Geri, Ridgefield Library

I fear my considerations for whether or not this book is a Printz contender are muddled.

A queen, who may or may not be Snow White (her name is never given, but in the past she had slept for a year and spent time among dwarves) hears about a princess who was placed under a sleeping spell. The spell appears to be spreading, plunging surrounding villages into sleep, so the queen sets out with three dwarf friends to see if the princess can be awakened and the spell broken before it reaches her kingdom. Since this is written by Gaiman, he twists the tale. Snow White is a tough, no nonsense queen who leaves her pretty, little prince husband at home. There is one person awake in the sleeping castle – a very elderly woman – but who is she exactly? And it is not giving too much away to say that the sleeper awakens, but that she is nothing like what the queen, or readers expect. Unlike Gaiman’s Newbery-winning Coraline, this is one of his fairy tale retellings (he likes them), so will the Printz committee look askance at that? That it is not 100% ‘new?’ Also, the book is riddled with Riddell’s gorgeous pen and ink drawings (see what I did there?). Again, this could go either way for the award. The committees have been rewarding graphic formats lately, but this is not a really a graphic novel, rather a heavily illustrated book. And it is stunning. The award focuses on the writing, but this whole package tells a story and it is amazing.

New version of old story, not quite a graphic novel but the illustrations work so well with the text they enhance the whole = muddled meditations.

(By the by, this is another title that I listened to first. And it is just how one would imagine a fairy tale brought to life would sound. Having a full cast helps you suspend disbelief. The narrator has a wry tone and a smart English accent. The performers use English accents for the most part – making the royal characters upper class, while workers in the pub are vaguely cockney.The dwarves are gloriously Scottish, which is somehow completely fitting.The performers’ voices give nothing away, letting surprises hit listeners in a good way. Music and sound effects immerse you in the tale. You will think you are seated in a pub, or walking through a stone-walled castle, or most disconcertingly, hearing maggots chomping nearby.)

 

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