That's Neil Gaiman reading from his newly published dark fantasy for young people, Coraline, as the young heroine of the story begins her journey, as so many fantasies start, by crossing the threshold into another place -- in this case, the eerie, alternate, "other" flat next door in the big old house that's been converted into apartments where she and her family live. The flat didn't exist earlier in the day; it was only a wall of bricks behind a locked door until Coraline found herself utterly bored (she'd counted everything she could), alone (her mum's at the store), and curious.
Gaiman is best known for his often apocalyptic, alternately horrific and funny, endlessly clever novels for adults like Good Omens, and Neverwhere, and for the haunting graphic novel "fables and reflections" of The Sandman series. Gaiman doesn't write to satisfy the stereotypcial expectations the publishing world has of neat, age-specific groups of readers. That may explain why teenagers have become avid fans of his work; he doesn't underestimate his audiences and he lets a young adult fantasy like Stardust push many of the boundaries of the quest genre to the horizon line. Gaiman entered the arena of children's books proper with The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish -- a hilarious, surreal, and ultimately tender-hearted story that makes a casual wish -- held by quite a few children, I suspect -- come true. You need to be careful what you wish for, Gaiman's modern fairy tales may tell us in one story, but they also challenge us in others, not to abandon ou r deepest and our truest wishes.
Gaiman is one of the many authors taking part in the Chicago Children's Festival. Visit the festival website for more information: www.chfestival.org
Copyright 2002 © John Cech
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Sunday, 15-Dec-2002 23:47:15 EST