The Dark, Twisted Other… For Kids! Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Mirrormask

Ok, so longest title ever, right?

And longest time ever for not actually making a post!

I know, I know, I said I was getting better.  And I am…  Probably.  Got this one ready to go with three more lined up that I hope to spread out over the next week… until I get too suspicious of the spell-checker doing a piss-poor job and just give up entirely.

Anyhow, if you haven’t been here before, you may not know that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors.  I like reading him, listening to him, and even recommending him at the book store where I work.

More than anything, I like to recommend him at the book store where I work.


A lot of it comes down to knowing I’ll be giving some lucky person their first Neil Gaiman experience.

Mine… was Neverwhere about four years ago.  After being badgered by friends for close to a decade, I finally decided to try him out and fell in booklust.  After four years, several novels, almost countless short stories, and seriously crazy amounts of comics… I still am.

And if you team Gaiman’s writing skill with the illustrious illustrations of Dave McKean… My head might well explode.  And MirrorMask is no exception.

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

Harper Collins
80 Pages
September 27, 2005

MirrorMask is one of several of Gaiman’s collaborations with McKean that is meant for children, joining Coraline and The Graveyard Book as one of my favorite children’s books from the last decade.

I will also come right out and say that if you’ve read any of Gaiman’s post-Sandman books, you really know what to expect up front… A child feels that he\she (in this case, a she named Helena) doesn’t fit in and wants to go on an adventure to some place else (in this case, the Real World, instead of the circus she works in), but eventually discovers that she was happier where she started out.

I think we’ve been over this before.  Hero’s journey, monomyth… ringing any bells?  Heck, we could even go German and add in the bildungsroman (and I will someday not transpose the “i” and the “u” in that word).

This is, basically, all Neil Gaiman does.  And he does such a damn good job that if you don’t like it, you can just get right the hell out of my blog right now.

All ten of you.

Anyway… Our story presents us with plucky heroine Helena, who wants to run away from the circus and, “join the Real World.”  Which is monstrously funny.  Don’t try to admit it isn’t.  I laughed.  Heartily, even!

The plot is everything you’d expect from a collaboration between this pairing.  It starts out sweet, adds some drama, lightens the mood ever so slightly before bringing. The. Hammer. Down.  And then we’re off to a magical dream land where everyone wears masks and the Prime Minister of this City of Light thinks Helena is evil.

But of course, it isn’t Helena.  It was her doppelgänger from the Shadow of Shadows known only as The Princess.  While searching for a special mask known as the MirrorMask, Helena and her erstwhile companion Valentine get into the normal scrapes…

They ride insulted library books to their destination.  They’re almost eaten by strange animals.  At which point, they’re saved by the pages of a Really Useful Book.  And, when things are at their darkest, the pair is saved by a flying tower (of course!).

All in all… I loved this book!  I will readily admit to being biased… Gaiman and McKean could collaborate on a project about the lesser known turds of the Amazon Basin and I would find it fascinating.

But for all the familiarity to the characters and the various tropes that Gaiman is so incredibly willing to fall back on… There’s a sweet little story about a girl growing up… paired with frightening illustrations of giant floating elephants, evil queens, and an entire world made up of people with masks who don’t look quite right…

If you’ve read the book… see the movie!  If you’ve seen the movie… read the book!  I read the children’s version (and loved it), but I’m also away of a twice-as-expensive adult version that contains a crapload of extra stuff, so… it is always good to have a dream to chase.

Or a nightmare…

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One thought on “The Dark, Twisted Other… For Kids! Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Mirrormask

  1. Pingback: The Dark, Twisted Other… For Kids! Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's | The Art of Dave McKean |

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