Neil Gaiman Wins The Newberry Award

January 29, 2009

It just keeps getting better for Neil Gaiman. The film version of his graphic novel Coraline will open on Friday, February 6th (you can’t make it that night because you’ll be at the Library listening to Chad Floyd’s architecture lecture) and he won the Newberry Award this week for The Graveyard Book. Gaiman has called the novel a twist on Kipling’s The Jungle Book, except that hero Nobody Owens is “somebody who gets raised by dead people” instead of animals, and “Bod” is mentored by a man called Silas, who is not quite like the other ghosts.

Shelf Awareness caught up with Gaiman for a quick interview yesterday and we quote a portion below:

Before Monday morning, did you know what a Newbery Medal was?

Oh of course! When I was eight years old maybe I picked up my Puffin copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and I loved it enough that it registered as a Newbery. In the years that followed, I read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh; From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Lloyd Alexander’s The Prydain Chronicles, because they won the Newbery. So yes, I never imagined it would be an award that it would be my lot to ever take home. I’m awed by it.

So what do you think about children’s books?

They’re terrible; they should be banned. What kind of question is that? I think they’re wonderful. When I was a kid, I was a kid with a book. As far as I was concerned, had you asked me at the age of seven what the most important things in the world are, I’d probably say the first six Narnia books, the first three Mary Poppins books. . . . Had I discovered The Hobbit yet? Not yet. The books that took pride of place on my shelves were Stig of the Dump by Clive King, Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green. I was the kind of kid who, during my summer holidays, would persuade my parents to drop me off at the library in the morning, and I’d spend my day there. Sometimes I’d pack a lunch. At 6:30 when they closed, I’d walk home.

Children’s fiction, for me back then, was the most important thing there is. It has a holy place and position that adult fiction doesn’t have. Adult fiction is a wonderful thing and enriching to the soul and mind, and it takes you to great places. But children’s fiction can change the world and give you a refuge from the intolerable. It can give you a place of safety and show you the world is not bounded by the world you live in–there’s more than that.–Jennifer M. Brown