Neil Gaiman in Children’s Literature Review 207

Neil Gaiman in Children’s Literature Review 207

Neil Gaiman announced via Twitter his new book on Norse mythology, which will be published February 2017. Here are a few snippets from the author entry on Gaiman, recently published in Children’s Literature Review, Volume 207.

Children’s Literature Review is published by Gale Cengage and produced by Layman Poupard Publishing.

Neil Gaiman

(Full name Neil Richard Gaiman) English graphic novelist, novelist, short-story and novella writer, author of picture books and young-adult fiction, and screenwriter.

The following entry provides criticism of Gaiman’s life and works. For additional information about Gaiman, see CLR, Volumes 109 and 177; for additional information about the Sandman series of comics, see CLR, Volume 205.


Neil Gaiman is widely credited with elevating the literary status of the graphic novel and demonstrating its potential to embrace and develop theological, philosophical, and psychological themes. His Sandman series of comic books, first published in monthly installments from January 1989 to March 1996, has won numerous awards and is considered to be among the most sophisticated illustrated works of the twentieth century. Reviewers have also praised Gaiman’s books for young readers, especially the novels Coraline (2002) and The Graveyard Book (2008), citing their cross-generational appeal and sensitive depictions of the anxieties of adolescence. Renowned for his collaborative efforts with other artists, Gaiman has continued to experiment in a wide range of media, including television and film.


Commentators have admired Gaiman’s skill and ingenuity in creating fanciful characters, parallel worlds, and imaginative mythologies in his graphic novels. In an interview with Jayme Lynn Blaschke (2005; see Further Reading), who considered the author “one of the most important fantasists of contemporary literature,” Gaiman commented on his influences, the challenges of writing within the constraints of the graphic-novel format, and the themes introduced in the Sandman series that recur in his other works. Julia Round (2012; see Further Reading) considered the Sandman comics in the context of postmodern fantasy theory, showing how the series exposes the “notion of ‘reality’ as a constructed referent.”

Gaiman’s works for young readers, frequently praised for their compelling and psychologically realistic portrayals of the traumas and pleasures of childhood, have attracted critical attention for their links to fairy tales. Joseph Abbruscato (2014) discussed character development and identity in The Graveyard Book, noting that Bod’s character arc closely follows that of the characters in traditional fairy tales. Exploring the ways in which Coraline adapts the conventions of such classic stories as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Lisa K. Perdigao (2014) positioned Gaiman’s novel as an allegory for the act of reading. Coraline reveals the meaning that lies just below the surface of traditional fairy tales, Perdigao argued, thus blurring “the lines between author and reader, child and adult” and effectively “transforming, twisting, and changing the world of children’s fiction.”

Scholars have also written about particular motifs in Gaiman’s adult fiction. Lynnette Porter (2012) analyzed how Gaiman’s short stories “A Study in Emerald” and “The Case of Death and Honey” contribute to the canon of works that include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Examining American Gods and its sequel, the novella The Monarch of the Glen (2004), for their depiction of the old gods’ attempts to integrate into modern American society, Max F. R. Olesen (2012) found that Gaiman demonstrates a strong ability “to textually face the moral ambiguity inherent in immigrant assimilation.” Kristine Larsen (2012; see Further Reading) investigated the goddesses in American Gods, contrasting Gaiman’s portrayal of female deities with that of the fantasists J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Philip Pullman. She observed that Gaiman’s female titans are depicted as “agents of change who have the ability to traverse, create, and even destroy entire universes.” Emily Capettini (2012) also addressed gender issues in her study of Gaiman’s script for an episode of the BBC television show Doctor Who. Focusing on his portrayal of the time machine as a woman, Capettini noted that in assigning a female identity to the formerly genderless object, Gaiman recasts the dynamics of the Doctor’s relationship with the machine.

To read more of Gaiman’s author entry, see Children’s Literature Review, Volume 207, or check out the Literature Criticism Online database.

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