The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman

The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman

I decided to read this because: the little one wanted to read it. I also seem to be on a Neil Gaiman run at the moment. So one more won't hurt.

First line: A is for always, that's where we embark.

I liked: I knew right off thathis book was definitely not for the smaller ones. But then Gaiman has a darkness that seems to either be liked or hated, nothing in between. An older child (10 or older) would probably like it as it is funny, clever and gruesome in a Tim Burton kind of way. My 11-year-old liked it though she says that she found it a bit boring.

There are 13 rhyming couplets which tell the story of brother and sister and their pet gazelle. Sneaking past their father, they board a small boat, and the stream takes them into a mysterious underworld adventure where they face all manner of horrors - monsters, trolls and other scary things - to find the treasure.

Neil Gaiman got himself an illustrator (Gris Grimly -- is this his real name? Isn't the coincidence uncanny?) that matches his dark humor and the images are surreal, spidery, sepia-ed and non-cute. Look closely and there are monsters and maggots and all the good creepy stuff of Halloween. The story just wouldn't be the same without the illustrations to bring home the point.

I didn't like: The storyline isn't that obvious for a small child. Nonetheless, this isn't a way to teach very young ones the alphabet as it is an "incorrect" alphabet to start with (heehee). But hey, this is a modified alphabet so there was some leeway with some of the letters (e.g., W comes before V where "warnings" before "vile deeds"). 

Verdict: A witty alphabet with wonderfully creepy illustrations that will haunt and delight older readers.

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall