RU547 (Summer 2017)

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman headshot and quote

Author, screenwriter, dreamer

It's difficult to pin down a genre that covers Neil's work; in fact, he eschews the very notion of "genre fiction" and would probably tell you that his genre is "good writing." But, since genres are helpful in selecting books, Neil's works generally fall into (but are not limited to) the genres of fantasy, dark fantasy, and science fiction.

2009 Newbery Award Winner and 2010 UK CILIP Carnegie Medal Winner The Graveyard Book

Fortunately The Milk, "the best book about milk since War and Milk" ~Neil Gaiman

Listen to Neil Gaiman describe what inspired him to write Chu's First Day of School

A Love of Reading

Neil grew up an avid reader. "That was who I was, that was what I did" (White, 1999, para. 5). He read everything he could get his hands on growing up in England. Books were an escape and an inspiration.

He read all of the classics because these were the only books the library had for children at that time. It's one of the reasons Neil is such a strong supporter of libraries and giving children a wealth of reading choices.

Neil Gaiman novelist quote

All of his life, Neil wanted to be a writer. He had very unconventional ideas. His writing inspiration was the world around him. He found himself asking, "what if...?", and this curiosity is reflected in his writings.

He did not write his first children's book until 1997, well after becoming a successful writer of adult fiction. He credits his children with giving him writing ideas.

Neil Gaiman writing ideas quote

Neil's advice to writers, based on his own experience, is “Ideas come from daydreaming. They come from drifting” (Shnelbach, 2016, para. 1). He asks himself, "if only", "I wonder", and "wouldn't it be interesting if" (Gaiman, n.d., paras. 20-22).

Neil describes his writing process.

Neil Gaiman on Story Ideas quote

Neil says that his best ideas come from being bored and having the freedom to think about the world, far from the constant distraction of everyday life (Grady, 2016, paras. 3-6).

Neil's Writing

A sampling of Neil's writings for children reveals an author who precisely knows his audience and understands how to blend reality and fantasy in such a way that readers can escape the bonds of their ordinary world. While many of his children's books are a bit on the macabre side, he has written several books (such as Fortunately The Milk and Crazy Hair) that are more lighthearted. As such, it's difficult to pin down any one writing "style" for Neil, which adds to his appeal as an author; he recognizes that children enjoy many different types of stories and writes accordingly. Let's look at three examples:

Fortunately The Milk cover
Blueberry Girl cover
The Wolves in the Walls cover

Visit this link for a Fortunately The Milk activity pack.

Visit this link for The Wolves in the Walls discussion points for young readers.

Click here to visit MouseCircus, "The Official Neil Gaiman Website for Young Readers". It's filled with games, activities, and discussion guides!

More information about Neil Gaiman (bio, awards) can be downloaded here.

Click here to download a list of references used for this project.

Image credits (where not indicated on image):

  1. Headshot:
  2. All book covers: