Usually, I am mesmerised by the words of the sorcerer Neil Gaiman. But there is another sorcerer in town. This sorcerer goes by the name Chris Riddell. The Sleeper and The Spindle is a book where the illustrator of pictures becomes the story teller. This is not to say that Neil Gaiman’s work is inadequate in any way, but the illustrations are simply outstanding, which in itself seems like an inadequate adjective to use. Black, white and gold interplay to make the reader gasp with awe. The artwork and the storytelling come together in the most delicious way possible. Yes, what can a book that satiates the eyes and the mind be called anything but delicious?
Get ready to listen to a new version of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
Once upon a time, there was a princess who was due to be married.
“It seemed both unlikely and extremely final. She wondered how she would feel to be a married woman. It would be the end of her life, she decided, if life was a time of choices. In a week from now, she would have no choices. She would reign over her people. She would have children. Perhaps she would die in childbirth, perhaps she would die an old woman, or in battle. But the path to her death, heartbeat by heartbeat, would be inevitable.
She could hear the carpenters in the meadows beneath the castle, building the seats that would allow her people to watch her marry. Each hammer sounded like a heartbeat”
What? No quickening of the pulse at the thought of her future husband, no blushing at the sighting of him. An independent princess? The tale gets curious.
The princess’ dwarf friends who chance upon a kingdom where everyone seems caught in a curse of sleep. Who better to solve the reason for this than a princess who slept a year away? They inform the princess who keeps her bridal dress aside, calls for her armor and sword and gets going to the kingdom of sleep.
She comes across a wall of roses which she gets crashing down quite ingeniously. In the streets and palace, the princess and the dwarves come across sleeping men and women who seem to be following them, zombie-like.
“Sleeping people are not fast. They stumble, they stagger, they move like children wading through rivers of treacle, lie old people whose feet are weighed down by thick, wet mud. The sleepers moved towards the dwarfs and the queen. They were easy for the dwarfs to outrun, easy for te queen to outwalk. And yet, and yet, there were so many of them. Each street they came to was filled with sleepers, cob-web shrouded, eyes tight closed or eyes open and rolled back in their heads showing only their whites, all of them shuffling sleepily forwards.”
The princess meets an old woman and a nubile maid. This all female cast take the remix version to its surprising end. Gaiman himself calls the illustrations ‘ pleasing, satisfying and gorgeous’. Chris was given full artistic freedom to interpret the characters as he best chose, a fact that he is both mindful of and grateful for.
The author and illustrator were inspired by the three strong women in the story, in the way that they were writers of their own destiny and made their choices fully conscious of the consequences.
Gaiman and Riddell both fairy tale fans hope that The Sleeper And The Spindle is a bit of magic in itself. Riddell sees parents and children reading this beautiful book together and enjoying the magic of it while still having their own version of it playing in their heads.
The result of two sorcerers putting their heads together can only be pure magic and that’s what The Sleeper And The Spindle Offers.
Age Range: 11-15
Grade Level: 5th to 10th