This book perfectly
fulfills its purpose - a children's book. In my opinion, the perfect
children's book is unique, beautiful to look at, and appealing to children
without being condescending. This fulfills those sublimely, while also
featuring creative talent that is appealing to adults as well.
I recently bought this book, thus completing my collection
of Gaiman/McKean collaborations. Gaiman, the writer, and McKean, the
artist, have been working together for two decades. Their most famous
work was The Sandman, a 75-issue graphic novel acclaimed for its
sophisticated characters and generous literary and fantasy allusions.
Gaiman wrote Sandman, and McKean provided covers for the entire
series. The two also worked together on such books as Signal to Noise, Mr.
Punch, and Black Orchid, all of which were fully illustrated
by McKean. Goldfish is their first work for children.
McKean's artwork gives Goldfish its sophistication
and respectability; Gaiman's story gives it its charm and character.
The artwork is a unique combination of line drawing, painting, photography
and assemblages, with a little computer art thrown in. McKean's skill
lies in his sparing use of each element. The artwork breathes easily
and at no time feels overwhelming. The highlight for me is his linework
- as a master draftsman, McKean knows enough to let his drawings emerge
quickly and take on a life of their own without controlling them too
much. Gaiman's story follows a typical child's quest with a repetition
motif, but his skill lies in his charming dialogue and, most noticeably
here, fantastic throwaway gags. Gaiman, as always, creates a world much
like our own but teetering on the edge of the mythical and outrageous.
The unusual becomes the usual, as it often is in kid's minds; the young
boy protagonist sees nothing odd about trading his dad to his friend
or accidentally visiting the Queen of Melanesia.
In many ways, both the creators are ideally suited
for producing work for children. Both the art and writing are childlike
but professional in their freshness and spontaneity. They don't hold
back the truth for kids, and there is always a slightly darker edge lurking
just below the surface. Kids pick up on this, and they appreciate the
honesty. You'll appreciate it too.