By Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Charles Vess
I’ve heard this book compared to Dr. Seuss’s book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” Tons of this Dr. Seuss title are sold this time of year, I hear, as a traditional gift for grads going into the wide, wide world. It’s a shrinking world and a shape shifting one that the newly minted diploma and degree conferred upon are riding into, after years in the “groves of academe.”
But Neil Gaiman’s small-sized book with the subtitle of “Everything you’ll need to know on the journey” may be small in size, but it’s filled with as terse a wisdom as the Brothers Grimm stories.
With its gorgeous illustrations by Charles Vess of a fairy tale landscape, it opens with the simple request to say “Please” before you open the latch to the path that beckons. This simple set of directives is so clear, so true, so humanely appealing:
“If any creature tells you that it hungers,
If it tells you that it is dirty,
If it cries to you that it hurts,
ease its pain.”
The puss in boots wanderer is told, when he stands at the top of a deep well, that if he opts to turn back at this critical point, “you can walk back safely; you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.”
He is told that “dragons have one soft spot”, “hearts can be well hidden” and not to lose hope…”what you seek will be found.”
Trust your heart
and trust your story.”
The unassuming advice of “Do not forget your manners”is mixed with much deeper assurances in the suggestion, “Do not look back.”
But the ending is very reminiscent of Dorothy’s journey in “The Wizard of Oz”:
“When you reach the little house
the place your journey started,
you will recognize it, although it will seem
much smaller than you remember.”
“And then go home
And make a home.
Neil Gaiman has written a fairy tale for those on a journey this summer, this year, and this lifetime.
Enjoy the book and the ride. Trust yourself in that, as someone wise once said, you can be in the world, what you want to see there.
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