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The Sleeper and the Spindle

Sleeper & Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

You all know the rules of Fairytale I am sure so I will not trouble you with the details. Suffice to say that a trail of seeds should lead you home, the path through the forest is best avoided, a quest of some sort possibly, eating someone's house is liable to land you in trouble and magic and true love prevails. Well that used to be the case but these days all rules are off. I blame Allan Ahlberg, but it probably started before him with the suffragettes or such.

Neil Gaiman should know the rules as he wrote the Instructions and his knowledge stands him in good stead here in the kingdoms of Kanselaire and Dorimar where one is preparing for wedding while the other is falling under a mysterious sleeping sickness. Step forward the intended bride and queen, who before had been asleep for a year in a glass coffin herself.

As multiple story references collide the story weaves into a tangle of briar and hair, staircases and tunnels, thread and cobwebs, needles and thorns, a twisted villain and a valiant heart. Happily ever after would not do justice to the end of this tale as rules can be broken, there are choices to be made and the rising sun beckons.

It is a tale too be returned to again and again, not least for the illustrations by Mr Riddell that hark back to another age of illustration - think Arthur Rackham, Heath Robinson, Walter Crane and their contemporaries. He can add narrative depth with his pictures that will infuse your dreams.

If you like a reconfigured fairytale consider the authors ED Baker, Shannon Hale, The Ahlbergs, The Witch's Boy, Poison, and the Fairy Tales of Python Terry Jones are all original but walk the same territory.

Picture books are legion but The Jolly Postman is a good place to start, The Stinky Cheeseman, The Dish and the Spoon, Dear Mother Goose/Fairy Godmother, The Frog Prince (continued), Gaiman's own Instructions, as mentioned and his recent Hansel and Gretel has turned a few heads.

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