Instructions by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Charles Vess, is a picture book that originally appeared in the more adult work, Fragile Things, as a poem. However, the success of Blueberry Girl gave them the idea to have Charles Vess illustrate Instructions as well. You can read more about the birth of this picture book from the words of Gaiman himself.
Instructions should be printed out and folded into a neat square to reside in your back pocket. You never know when a dusty wardrobe or a break in a darkened trellis will become a doorway into the world of faerie. If you should find yourself suddenly transported far away from a cellphone tower, take these instructions out of your pocket and breath a sigh of relief. All is well.
The original poem was lush with descriptive words that evoked imagery of forgotten tales in one’s mind. They were steeped in the fairytales of the UK and many fans of those folktales found a comfortable home within the pages of the book. From spirit animals to ferryman with questions, witches to ogres, and forgotten kingdoms with their untrustworthy daughters, Instructions is a delight to read.
The illustrations take the story to another level of excellence. They don’t simply illustrate the story, but add to the mythology and world that the reader walks through while they read. Originally, the main character was a young man, but according to Vess this was changed to a more Puss-in-boots style character to allow for both boys and girls to relate with the story.
Instructions features some of Vess’ best work to date. The muted color palette that Vess prefers lends itself well to the “Once upon a time” feel of the story. Here and there is a hint of Rackham, but the work is all Charles Vess. Even the borders are whimsically decorative without being intrusive.
Instructions by Neil Gaiman is a prized part of my collection, and I was delighted that all my daughters enjoyed it, even the older ones. I definitely recommend picking up a copy.
Release Date: April 27, 2010 (USA)
ISBNs: 0061960306 (9780061960307)
Violence: 1 (some scary imagery)