8 Rated Books Neil Gaiman Week

Gaiman Week – Children’s Books Double Feature: The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Gold Fish and Odd and The Frost Giants

Title: The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish

Author: Written by Neil Gaiman/ Illustrated by David Mckean

Genre: Fantasy/Children
Summary: “What if you wanted your best friend’s two goldfish so much that you’d swap anything for them, even your father?
What if your mother came home and found out what you’d done?
The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish is a hilarious adventure and was the first book for younger readers from the acclaimed author and illustrator of the New York Times best-sellers The Wolves in the Walls and Coraline. Chosen as one of Newsweek magazine’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish is beloved by readers of all ages. This new edition features brand-new jacket art and an afterword by the author on the origins of this unique and wonderfully funny story. “

According to the afterword one day Neil Gaiman was having a row with is son who was very angry at him. Mike, the son, looked up at him and said that he wished he didn’t have a dad, he wished he had…..goldfish!
And thus the idea for this little book for children was sowed.

One day a boy’s mother went out and left the boy at home with his sister and his father, who was reading the newspaper. Nathan, the boy’s friend, comes by the house to show him his two new goldfish and the boy thinks they are pretty neat. So neat he wants them. He offers Nathan anything he wants for the fish but Nathan is not very impressed with his toys but then the boy (who is narrating the story by the way) has the greatest idea EVER: to swap his father for the fish. Nathan albeit not exactly very excited at the idea, after all the man can not even swim according to the boy’s sister who keeps interrupting the conversation to say “this is a bad idea”. (The nerve of the brat. Younger sisters…pft. ) Anyways, they make the exchange and the mother comes home and it is not very happy and tells the boy to go get his father.

What starts then is an adventure: when the boy (and his sister who is tagging along) get to Nathan’s house they find out that Nathan has swapped the dad for a guitar. They get the guitar and go to the original owner’s house and find out that she in turn, had swapped the dad for a gorilla mask! And so on and so forth, they go about town (and out of town too) until they find the father (who has spent the whole time, still reading the newspaper).

I loved this book. It is a very simple idea and yet very lyrical in its realization. The very idea of swapping one’s father for goldfish is surreal in itself but the children go about as if there was nothing wrong with it. And the boy’s teasing relationship with his little sister was a joy and I am pretty sure anyone who has a sibling can relate to.

But what makes The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish really special is the combination of Neil Gaiman’s writing with David McKean’s illustrations.

The boy, Nathan and the two goldfish (which are real fish, by the way, not drawings)

He is one of Neil Gaiman’s closestcollaborators and together they have done several books and graphic novels, including the Sandman. The man is a genius. There, I said it. His artwork speaks directly to my heart – I love his use of color and his drawings and how everything is so vivid and rich and still remarkable in its simplicity.

A very fun read.
Title: Odd and the Frost Giants
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fantasy/ Children

Summary: Odd’s luck has been bad so far. He lost his father on a Viking expedition, his foot was crushed beneath a tree, and the winter seems to be going on forever. But when Odd flees to the woods and releases a trapped bear, his luck begins to change. The eagle, bear and fox he encounters reveal they’re actually Nordic gods, trapped in animal form by the evil Frost Giants who have conquered Asgard, the city of the gods. Can a twelve-year-old boy reclaim Thor’s hammer, outwit the Frost Giants and release the gods

Odd and the Frost Giants was written for the 2008 World Book Day, an yearly event to promote reading and publishing and each book is sold for a meager £1 in the UK.
A children’ s book by Neil Gaiman featuring Norse Gods for one quid? I am in!

Odd is a young Viking boy whose woodcutter father drowned during one of his village’s raids. He lives with his mother, a Scottish woman who had been taken from her village in Scotland by Odd’s father, who fell in love with her beauty at first sight.

After his father’s death, Odd decides to take over the role of man of the house and one day sets out to cut the trees with his father’s big axe. He has an accident that crushes one of his legs living him lame for life. Two years later, his mother decides to remarry another widow called Fat Elfred who has children who are bullies, specially since everyone thinks Odd is well….odd. Couple that with the fact that winter seems to be never-ending, we realize Odd is not having a good time.

So he decides he has had enough and runs away to the forest to live alone in his fathers old hunting hut. One day he is visited by a Fox who clearly wants to be followed which he does only to find a bear that had his hand trapped in a tree while trying to gather some honey and an eagle who observes the proceedings.

Odd helps the bear and the animals end up helping him returning to the hut. That night, Odd wakes up and overhears the animals speaking and they come clean : they are in fact the Norse Gods Odin, Thor and Loki who had been turned into animals and expelled from Asgard by a frost giant who tricked Loki (it is always Loki’s fault) into bringing him the Hammer of Thor.

Odd decides to help the gods to go back to Asgard and reclaim their home and does so by cleverly convincing the Frost Giant into returning to his own land thus saving the Gods and his own land from eternal winter. He then returns home to his mother.

Odd and the Frost Giand is a clever and beautiful tale of a boy’s coming of age where he undertakes the not very light task of helping Gods. I am very partial to Norse Mythology and so I devoured the 96 pages in less than one hour. The narrative is fantastic and the story itself is one of those where you want the hero to conquer everything and show his bullies how special he is. I hate bullies and Odd was amazing!

Notable quotes/ Parts: I love this one part, in The Day I Swapped my Dad for two Goldfish where the sister is trying to warn the mother that the father is gone but she only says “mumf, mumf mumf”. The absent-minded mother says “Don’t speak with your mouth full, darling”. Next thing we know, or see is that the sister has been gagged and bound by ropes by the boy so that she won’t spill! LOL. (Yes, I have a perverted sense of humor).

Probably not the best quote for children.

Additional Thoughts: I just love how Gaiman keeps going back to Norse mythology and Norse Gods. They are ever present in his Sandman series (Loki plays a huge part in it) and American Gods too. My favorite is his take on Loki: the god that usually plays the villain in the Norse tales: he is a coward, a cheat, a trickster. And in Gaiman’s work, the ultimate scapegoat: let’s blame it on Loki. LOL. I love it.

Verdict: I believe children will like both books and as matter of fact, so will adults.
Rating: both get an 8, Excellent!

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  • Thea
    July 3, 2008 at 7:23 am

    How wonderful! I haven’t read either of these, to be honest I hadn’t even heard of Odd and the Frost Giant, but they both sound awesome.

    Oh, and yes, I adore David McKean too 🙂 These illustrations are simply beautiful, i love the colors.

    I might have to buy this one for my baby sister 🙂

  • Shannon
    July 3, 2008 at 7:35 am

    Ooh! A new-to-me Gaiman kids book! I read (and LOVED) The Day I Swapped My Dad when I was at school one day. I was looking for a picture book to use in music class and spotted this one. I picked it up and next thing I knew my prep period was half over! So cute!

    I will def have to look for Odd. Have you read Coraline? We read it a couple summers ago for the summer book club I was leading for my 6-8th graders. After they finished it the universal comment was “That book was so creepy. It was AWEsome!!!”

  • Christine
    July 3, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Great reviews, Ana!
    We’re heading to the library later today… I’m going to look for The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish.

    Shannon :: I read Coraline a few years ago and had that same reaction as your students!

    I’ve also read The Wolves in the Walls (also illustrated by Dave McKean…). I have a feeling that the tone and complexity of the story falls somewhere between The Day I Swapped my Dad… and Coraline.

  • Girl Detective
    July 5, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    My 4yo son loves Wolves in the Walls. He and my 2yo son both love The Day I Swapped… Wolves is darker, and a little scary, but has a good protagonist.

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