Instructions
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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 29, 2010
This book contains a set of instructions for wanderers into the realms of Faerie. Those instructions come in the form of an evocative poem, written by Neil Gaiman, and illustrated by the illusively charming drawings of Charles Vess (who has some experience depicting those lands beyond the fields we know, having also illustrated Gaiman's _Stardust_ and Susanna Clarke's _The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories_, among many other works).

This will be classified as a "children's book," and it is, but it's also an adult's book and a reader's book; something that I expect will charm anyone who's ever read a fairy tale.

"Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat

nothing.

However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,

feed it.

If it tells you that it is dirty,

clean it.

If it cries to you that it hurts,

if you can,

ease its pain."
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
First things first: this is a poem, not a children's bedtime story as the cover art might suggest. I just wanted everyone to know that before they buy. That said, it is an absolutely charming poem about how to survive in a fairy tale and is fabulously well-done by Neil Gaiman. Fans of his work (the latest award-winner being his novel The Graveyard Book) will instantly recognize his invention on these pages. It's really quite charming and the illustrations are wonderful. If you're looking at this for your kids, it's appropriate for those who are old enough to understand the concept of entering a fairy tale, at least in my opinion....my four year old certainly understands it (and enjoys it!).

If you're a Gaiman fan like myself, this is a must-have for your collection.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Don't deny it. Everybody has had fantasies of wandering into another world, or at least a magically-enhanced pocket of our own -- and Neil Gaiman is an expert on both. His "Instructions" is a delicately illustrated, whimsical little picture book that takes you on a guided tour of a fantasy world, and Charles Vess' delicate, elegant illustrations mesh perfectly with Gaiman's words.

"Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before. Say please before you open the latch, go through, and walk down the path." Gaiman follows a cat-man in vaguely medieval clothes as he follows the various instructions. Obviously he starts off going through a mysterious door in a stone wall, which leads him into a world of ogres, palaces, wild woods, magic wells, princesses and red dragons.

Moreover, he gives you tips on the proper places to go and what you should do when you get there. For instance, he informs you what giant animals you are going to ride, what you shouldn't do (example: touch an imp doorknocker), and precisely what to say to whomever you meet.

Technically "Instructions" is a children's picture book, but it feels more like a whimsical poem with equally charming illustrations. Gaiman manages to make you feel like you wandered into a slightly tongue-in-cheek fairy tale and are just an observer rather than a full participant. It's a little like he's taking you by the hand and showing you the most interesting sights of the Fairy Tale World -- including some of the darker edges, like a haunted wood full of imps, or the incarnations of the year's months.

And Charles Vess' illustrations really give the book a magical air -- lots of gnarled trees, crows, clinging flowering vines, floating mists, green tinged forests and golden skies. His art tends to be rather delicate and full of dusty, vibrant colors -- and it often gives you the feeling that it's about to spill off the page.

"Instructions" is a pretty mundane name for a charming little picture book, with a lovely concept and even lovelier drawings. Lovely for the imaginative kid, and maybe a few adults as well.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2010
Instructions is a lovely book. :) It's quite a bit smaller -- not in terms of page count, but physically -- than I expected, but it's plenty large enough to showcase the art. It's illustrated by the same man who did Blueberry Girl, but I'm not sure I would have guessed that if I didn't already know it... the style in this one is quite different, in my opinion. It's generally not as whimsical as Blueberry Girl, although it's still on fairy tale themes. Come to think of it, though, that's true of Neil Gaiman's text in each, as well, so I guess it's appropriate. :) I read it to my 5-year-old daughter, and she seemed to enjoy it. I tried to specifically slow down in my reading, and used a lot of Gaiman's intonations (from the youtube video I watched), just like with Blueberry Girl. I think the themes in this one are still a bit over her head, but she'll grow into it. :D

I think this is truly a special book for kids, but probably even more so for adults. Here's hoping it becomes a graduation classic, a la "Oh, The Places You'll Go!"
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Well written with lovely illustrations. The illustrations by Charles Vess are full of hidden details, so linger over and savor them. I say this as you can likely read this book in a few minutes, there's not that much in the way of words. What few there are are well crafted.

Good for read-aloud, or a gift for a child you really like, or for any Gaiman fan.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2010
A Puss in Boots has one day decided to take a walk following a path he has never used before. It is a path well hidden and only just discovered. But this will be no ordinary walk; it is a guided tour through a world of enchantment and danger. If you do not follow the Instructions you may never find your way home, but if you pay attention you may just learn the mysteries of a fairytale land.

Instructions will guide you through a light and magical story full of friendship, mysteries and oddities. If you have ever wondered how to survive the perils of coming up against princesses, giants or wolves, if you have contemplated how to endure in a fairytale land then these clear and decisive instructions will set you straight. But listen carefully for there is wisdom too in these words that will be of benefit in our own strange and wondrous world. Instructions is a book to live by.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
As one might expect from Neil Gaiman, "Instructions" is an unusual little book, and despite technically being a picture book, isn't necessarily something you would give to a child. Not that the content isn't objectionable - just a tad incomprehensible to anyone who isn't well versed in the rules and patterns of fairytales. With that in mind, a child *is* an appropriate audience; I think what I'm trying to say is that "Instructions" is a story for those who love stories, and the more familiar you are with the tales upon which is this is based, the better you will enjoy it.

First published in A Wolf at the Door, an anthology of retold fairytales, "Instructions" centers on a Puss-in-Boots figure who traverses a fairytale world, replete with familiar character and species, guided by the words of the narrator whose wisdom comes from almost every fairytale ever told. Puss opens the wooden gate in the wall and passes through woods and castles, visiting foxes, wolves, giants, devils and witches, joined by a young cat that he helps along the way, whilst the accompanying text gives us such anecdotes as "do not be jealous of your sister," "remember your name" and "do not look back." It all rings a distant bell in the mind of the reader as they recall those ancient tenants of folklore and fairytale that have been around for time immemorial.

Charles Vess provides the illustrations (you may recall his style from Susana Clarke's The Ladies of Grace Adieu), creating a visually simplistic but vivid world of the fairytale, in which imps crawl in the branches of treetops, princesses call from tower windows and glass slippers lie abandoned by the roadside. I think my favorite picture is the one where Puss passes over a log-bridge that spans a crevasse, his arms stretched out for balance, completely unaware that a troll lurks beneath his feet. The illustrations are detailed yet uncluttered; it is almost as if a talented child has painted them.

Altogether "Instructions" is a difficult book to pin down. It's simple yet thought-provoking, short yet engrossing. Reading much like a poem, with its own tempo and rhythm, this is a picture book that demands more than one read. The only problem, I felt, was the title. It should have been called "Advice".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I love Neil Gaiman's stories, poems, graphic novel, and books. So realize that I am giving you this review with a somewhat biased viewpoint. Instructions is a poem that I first read in Gaiman's collection of children's stories "M Is for Magic." I loved the poem, which is an somewhat eccentric list of instructions about how to survive a fairy tale...and on a deeper level how to live you life in general.

This is a great book for young children, older children, adults and all ages in between. My three year old finds the book fascinating, as do I. Some people might find the somewhat crazy random and quirky instructions in this book a bit odd. Mostly though this poem is somewhat mysterious, fun, gives incite into fairy tales, and is a wonderful imaginative adventure.

Charles Vess's illustrations add a ton to this book. They are beautiful and mysterious and absolutely perfect for this poem. You can hear Gaiman read the whole book and see all of Vess's wonderful illustrations at: [...]

So before buying check out the above link to see if this book is for you.

I personally thought this was a wonderful book. It is a great children's book the provokes imagination and introduces both poetry and fairy tales. It is a great adult book in that it sends a message about how to live your life. Adults will recognize references to many popular fairy tales. I absolutely loved this book. I will keep in in my library for ever.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2013
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book (except for the obvious).

It ended up being not so much a story in itself, but an introduction/summary of other, older stories. However, I think the title gives fair warning to this. It's 'Instructions' on what to do during your adventures, not the adventures themselves, which is actually quite a clever idea (leave it to Neil Gaiman to come up with something like that...if you hadn't already been able to tell, I'm a fan).

When reading with children it could be a fun introduction to fantasy tales, what to be careful of when becoming a part of the adventures one reads about. Or it could be a good review, looking at the instructions listed and remembering examples in stories where the people followed the instructions or did not and what happened to them because of it.

The combination of Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess was perfect for this book. The illustrations are well done. Both the tone of the book and the pictures are soft and gentle, so go together quite well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
While not a very large tome, nor wordy, this offering from author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Charles Vess offers a perfect jumping off point for the introduction of young children to the wonder and magic of fairy tales. Word-wise, it is a very simple, one sentence per page, tale. The illustrations accompanying the story include pictures of many well-known fairy tale characters. As the child grows into the book, learning to read the story, these pictures offer the inquisitive a path toward further exploration of the world of the fairy tale. For example, as you come across the character of Little Red Riding Hood, you can then relate that story to the child ... and so forth and so on. It is rich with images and the simple story line challenges the child to proceed further in both hunting down these other tales as well as continued reading. I truly believe that this is one the greatest gifts I could have given my young grandson.

Instructions
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