Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman


Jam! Jam! Jam! Jam! Lovely Jam! Wonderful Jam!

I may have misquoted slightly, but I couldn’t resist. Jam goes in sandwiches, in porridge, on toast, in cakes, and in debates about whether strawberry or raspberry is best. Raspberry, obviously. And it can be mistaken for blood, which is what the following three books sort-of have in common.


Jampires: Sarah McIntyre & David O’Connell (David Fickling Books, 2014)

Jampires began life as a comic created by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell, where one drew a page and the other one followed until a story appeared.  Encouraged by their publisher to transform the idea into a picture book, David and Sarah worked together to create Jampires. Sarah and David are both the author(s) and the illustrator(s) in this fabulous collaboration.

Sam is distressed to find his favourite treat dry and wrinkly, as if all the jam had been sucked out. Determined to catch the culprit, he sets a trap with ketchup filled doughnuts (yuck!), but ends up with more than he bargained with. Two small Jampires, a land of yummy treats that DG(5) wants to move to, and a deliciously sticky adventure.

The Jampires are far too cute to be scary, even with those fangs and red-smeared faces. You can find out more on the Jampires website, including the original comic and activities to download.

bernardBernard: Rob Jones (Beast In Show Books, 2014)

This is not only Rob Jones’ debut picture book, but the publisher’s debut too. Based on the quality of this, I expect Beast In Show Books, and Rob Jones, to have a rosy future ahead of them.

Bernard is the tale of a misunderstood wild dog. Poor Bernard, all alone on the moors with everyone afraid of him, and all he wants is your yummy tasty jam – eek, lock up your fridges!

Told in a minimal palette with strong lines and text taking a starring role, the bold style will appeal to even small children. Grown-ups, however, might find some of the images a little scary, especially one of the double spreads showing a close up of the hound’s mouth full of sharp pointed red-stained teeth and manic red pupils… Just hold your child’s hand and you’ll be fine.

Disclosure: Bernard received for review from Beast In Show Books.

The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2003)The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2003)

The slightly scary nature of Bernard, and his taste for jam, brought to mind the wolves from this classic Gaiman/McKean picture book. I reviewed The Wolves in the Walls a couple of years ago, and actually we haven’t read it this year so I’ve pulled it out to see what DG thinks of it now she’s five (MG doesn’t listen to stories at all any more, she prefers to read alone.) What this has in common with Bernard is that it’s a book that grown-ups will probably find more frightening than children will.

I think we forget that a book like Owl Babies is more terrifying to a small child than vampires or werewolves can ever be, or that children will just see jam as jam if that’s the context…

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell, and Skottie Young

Books published on either side of the Atlantic (which for purposes of simplicity, I’ll refer to as US and UK) are often subtly different. They may have different publishers; the covers may vary; they almost certainly will have different editors and there may be changes in text due to cultural differences.

I’ve never felt the need to buy US and UK editions of a single book before, even other novels with different illustrators, but Fortunately, The Milk is a highly illustrated text and I was so torn between both Chris Riddell’s and Skottie Young’s illustrations based on the front cover that I couldn’t choose between them.

So I bought both.

This post is a comparison of the US and UK versions of Fortunately, The Milk. I’m not aiming to review the book and I’m assuming that you’ve either already read one version, or that you don’t mind being spoilered. If you don’t want to read spoilers, bookmark here and go read the book first.

UK readers can order either version from Foyles.

Outside Appearances

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell & Skottie Young (Bloomsbury Children's Books UK, Harper US)The US edition is a subtler, slimmer tome with matt cover and a white hardback underneath. The UK edition has a red hardback and the cover is shiny and bright. The UK edition is on the Bloomsbury website under the age band 7-9. The US edition states the age band 8-12.

The UK edition is slightly wider, and slightly shorter than the US. It is also slightly thicker with 166 pages (146 for story, 20 for dedication, copyright and extras) compared to 128 pages in the US edition (114 for story, 14 other). This is mainly due to font size, which is bigger in the UK edition, although there are also some paragraph differences and the UK edition has ‘extras’ that the US doesn’t.

For the UK edition, Gaiman is described as RIDICULOUSLY BESTSELLING AUTHOR, whereas he’s merely a New York Times Bestselling Author in the US.

The back flyleaf description of Gaiman is subtly different. They both mention that he won both the Newbery and Carnegie for The Graveyard Book, but the US edition points out which is the US award and which the UK. The UK version mentions Doctor Who and Stardust; whereas the US edition mentions that he is from England but now lives in the US. Riddell and Young’s write-ups are completely different, on account of being completely different people.

The First Page

Fortunately, The Milk: First page
In Riddell’s version we see the narrator looking into the fridge and in that one image the entire book is set up – the hot air balloon, aliens, pirates, dinosaurs, ponies, vampires, volcano, all are in this image.

Young gives us the fridge-eye view of the narrator finding nothing in the fridge for his Toastios.

You can also see that the first page of text in the US edition is already 21 words longer than the UK version.


Chris Riddell’s characters have a more realistic feel to them (in as much as globulous aliens, volcano gods, and vampires can be realistic) and Skottie Young’s are more cartoonish. Riddell appears to have followed the text more closely in his illustrations. For example his aliens are all globby, where Young’s are more varied, and his dwarves have beards (text difference UK p128; US p98.)

Riddell’s time travel machine also actually looks like a cardboard box with gemstones stuck on it, but Young does the best teeth (the shark on US p24 especially). Young’s vampires are all utterly terrifying with their teeth, but Riddell has an especially chilling Nosferwatu.

Riddell depicts the dad very obviously as Gaiman, although Young’s scruffy haired dad may well be Gaiman too.

Fortunately, The Milk: The Dad
In the UK edition there are 23 pages containing only images (excluding extra pages), and 28 in the US edition. The UK version has 30 pages with text only, compared to 11 in the US. The other pages are a mixture of text and images. The US edition appears to have more frequent, smaller, images compared to the UK and has no double-page spreads without any illustration (apart from one which has white text on a black background and could therefore be considered illustrated).

The UK edition has four double-page spreads without illustrations, although two of these are white text on a black background. However, the UK edition has extra pages of character illustrations and, more significantly, a fold out colour four-page spread picture hidden in the middle.

There is an ending to Fortunately, The Milk that can only been seen in the illustrations. Young’s illustration very obviously points it out; I didn’t actually realise the significance in the UK edition until I’d read the US one, although in retrospect it’s obvious in a different way and I was just being a bit slow! I won’t spoil what that is though, you’ll need to read (either version) to find out.

Text Differences

There are several subtle word changes between the two versions, but one cultural difference that I was surprised not to find was the use of ‘mum’ in both versions. I expected ‘mom’ in the US edition but it’s not used.

A subtle cultural difference that is only apparent in the illustrations is that of the milk. In the UK the milk is in a tetrapak, the US milk is shown as a bottle.

To me, a gondola is a type of boat, one that you’d probably find in Venice. On a trip to Canada I was not keen on the idea of a ‘gondola ride’ because I don’t like boats, but it turned out to be what I’d call a cable-car. In the UK, the container for people that hangs under a hot-air balloon is called a basket. In Fortunately, The Milk, the balloon basket is mentioned on at least six occasions. In the US edition, it’s called a gondola on only two of these occasions (the rest of the time it’s a basket.)

The table below contains the wording (and some punctuation) changes I found. I almost certainly missed some, as I compiled this list by reading both versions simultaneously, a few pages at a time.

UK edition

US edition


house key




Now dad came into the kitchen.


Now dad came in.


He had his ‘no tea’ face on.


He had his “no tea” face.


Not skimmed.


Not the fat-free kind.


said my dad


said my father


“Who be ye, landlubber?” asked the woman…


“Who be ye, landlubber?” said the woman…


I’d just been to…


I just set out to…


At the corner of…


On the corner of…


…it was safer just to get…


…it was safer just to have…


 …just like ours, appeared over by…


…just like ours, appeared, over by…




hot air


…the side of the basket…


…the side of the gondola…


embroidered cushions




southern hemisphere


Southern Hemisphere


They had purple skin and orange beards, and…


They had purple skin and…


…into the basket of her balloon…


…into the gondola of her balloon…

Fonts and Paragraphs

This is one of the most interesting (to me) differences between the two versions. There are too many differences for me to list every single one. The US edition uses a larger variety of fonts, and accentuates words and phrases far more than the UK edition. This makes the text more interesting, and helps with intonation when reading, but also makes the text itself harder to read for newer readers and may explain the age band differences in the UK and US editions.

The UK edition only uses two different fonts: one for the main story that the child narrator is telling, and one for the dad’s story. Therefore the interruptions to the story from the children are in the same font as the book started with. The dad’s story is also enclosed in quotes.

In the US edition, when the dad’s story starts it is not separated from the rest of the text by quotes or font changes. However, whilst the story is being told, any interruptions from the children (and answers from the father) are shown in completely different fonts.

Fortunately, The Milk: interruption
The UK edition uses illustrations for the warning signs in the alien spaceship, whereas the US edition uses interesting fonts. This does mean, to take a random example, that if you’re given a text-only proof to read some sense is lost because the illustrations contain part of the text.

Considering the US edition makes such good use of different fonts and emphasis, there are several places where it misses a trick. The start of the dad’s story (UK p16; US p11) feels to me like it should be the dad making a point, and the UK edition has this in capitals: “I BOUGHT THE MILK.” On first confronting Professor Steg (UK p36; US p26), the UK edition puts “You’re a Stegosaurus” in larger text, but there’s no emphasis in the US edition.

The second time the dad is kidnapped by aliens (UK p95; US p70), Professor Steg’s interrupted speech is shown as “…travelling companiAARRGH” with the letters getting larger, but again no emphasis in the US edition. The UK edition also has EYE OF SPLOD in capitals throughout, which isn’t in the US edition.

The UK edition uses black pages with white text more, with seven pages compared to the US edition’s two. White on black is used to emphasise the time travel overshoot in the UK edition (p76/77), which is almost entirely sidelined in the US version (p51/52).

There are other occasions where the UK edition has emphasis and the US doesn’t but on the whole, the US edition has far more emphasis in the text using different fonts, weights and sizes.

Astonishingly, there is actually one page where both the US and UK editions contain exactly the same words (UK p96; US p72).


I think it’s fairly obvious that I am a fan. I’m glad we have both versions, and we’ll treasure them both but (probably because I’m a UK citizen and more used to the UK way of doing things) the UK version has the slight edge for me, although the larger font size may put off older readers.

I love Skottie Young’s illustrations but it’s the rest of the US edition package that is less appealing, mainly due to inconsistencies in how the text was treated – although to be fair, I was reading analytically and I doubt there are that many people who will be bothered by things like ‘the milk‘ being inconsistently emphasised in the text.

I’ve read the story to my daughters (aged six and four) a few times, and the six-year-old has read chunks of the book independently. In fact she pointed out some of the wording differences, just from reading the two versions, before I started to look for them! My eldest is fascinated with the idea of the same book being different.

The story is the same regardless of version, and it comes down to a matter of taste (or availability) to which version to read. Fortunately, The Milk is mad, funny, and works for a wide age range.

All the above comments refer to the standard hardback editions of Fortunately, The Milk published in the UK by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, and in the US by Harper (part of HarperCollins Children’s Books) in September 2013.

Fiction Fridays #13: The Wolves in the Walls

The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (2003)

Lucy walked around the house.

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Extra Info:
I’d not thought of reading Neil Gaiman to my girls because they are my books. Including the picture books! See how this is mine, it’s signed to ME! And I got it four years before my eldest was born…

Apparently this is a scary book. My girls, however, have been brought up on a diet of Scooby Doo and Doctor Who so this kind of ‘scary’ doesn’t bother them at all. The wicked stepmother in Snow White or wicked fairy in Sleeping Beauty? Terrifying, apparently. Monsters etc, no problem at all…

This looks like a scary picture to grown ups, but it’s not to children. That’s jam, you see, and if you read the book you know it’s jam, and what’s scary about wolves eating jam?

Which is not to say that there aren’t scary images in the book, depending on your definition of scary. For instance, a well-loved soft toy being left behind, well who wouldn’t find that terrifying?

This is typical Neil Gaiman in that it doesn’t talk down to children at all. And every strange happening is taken in a completely matter-of-fact manner: “We should go and live in the Arctic Circle,” said Lucy’s father. The Queen of Melanesia makes a brief cameo and of course Lucy, the youngest child, is the most sensible of them all. Partnered with Dave McKean’s atypical artwork, it makes for a picture book to stand out from the rest of the shelf.

Which are all things that make me love this book. But what about my two-and-almost-three-quarters year old and very-almost-five year old? This is a fairly long picture book, and my two girls sat silent and wrapped in the story the first time I read it to them. Afterwards I asked what parts they liked:
MG: When the wolves came out of the walls!
DG: Pig puppet!

DG’s two year old self of course being most concerned by the loss of a favourite toy and MG’s nearly five year old self loving the humour in the wolves. Pretty much spot-on developmentally I suspect…

On subsequent readings, they’ve still sat and listened intently but now with interjections from the eldest: “It’s all over!” MG is at a stage where she half-listens to books and then goes and draws whilst I continue reading (she is more interested in trying out her new reading skills and reading to us) and DG is definitely in a sensitive period for books as she regularly drops them on my lap demanding “You read it!” and “Again!” when I’ve finished.

I would hugely recommend this book, but some parents may find it too scary. The children should be fine though 😆

I suppose I’ll have to read my copy of The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish to my girls next then…


Emily from A Mummy Too has set somewhat of an impossible challenge – choose three books you love most: one from childhood, one from adulthood, one as a parent.

I stumble at the first hurdle: which part of childhood? How do you define “childhood”? I was reading adult novels as a pre-teen, but was a child until my twenties in other ways (not that I’ve ever truly grown up). In a quick burst of conciousness I could include: picture books listed here (and more besides); A Child’s Garden of Verses; The Hobbit; A Wizard of Earthsea; The Hounds of the Morrigan; The Wind on the Moon; The Ordinary Princess; Narnia; Enid Blyton; The Starlight Barking; Wolves of Willoughby Chase; The Snow Kitten; Asimov; Douglas Adams; Harry Harrison… and I’ve missed out so many.

I’m going to chose Dragons’s Blood (trilogy) by Jane Yolen. I borrowed it from the library when I was around 10 and it always stuck with me, to the extent I managed to track the trilogy down again to re-read in my early 20’s even though I couldn’t remember the author at the time. It’s set in a world where dragons exist and are bred for fighting, where there are two classes of people: free and bonded and it tells the story of how a bonded boy manages to raise his own dragon in secrecy. It’s a fully realised world containing politics, emotions and characters that stay with you forever. Now I’ve written this, I want to re-read them again (and get the fourth book which I’ve never read…)

Here I have the opposite problem to childhood: I read a lot of so-called children’s novels and then there’s my soft spot for vampire ‘young adult’ fiction 😆 I used to read at least one or two books a week but sadly those days seem long gone, maybe one day I’ll get back into reading as much as I used to…

My favourite authors for the bulk of my adulthood have been Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Other authors who have wowed me include Iain (M) Banks; Philip Pullman; Garth Nix… Far too many others, including non- SF/fantasy/horror books if you were wondering…

I’m going to chose Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A book by both my favourite authors, well it’s a no-brainer. It’s funny, intelligent, and… Oh, it’s just brilliant.

I’m avoiding choosing a children’s / picture book as I really can’t choose just one and I get to talk about those lots on this blog anyhow.

I’m going to choose How Children Learn by John Holt. It’s a very readable book based around a series of memos Holt wrote whilst he was working as a teacher. It not only gives a view on how education should (or shouldn’t) be but also lots to think about in how to parent too. John Holt obviously loved and respected children and is essential reading if you have anything to do with children in my opinion.

That was hard! Thank-you, A Mummy Too, I really enjoyed thinking about what to choose.