I’ve never tried to write in the voice of a 7-year-old boy, but I can’t imagine it's easy. And Neil Gaiman naaaailed it.
I was a normal child. Which is to say, I was selfish and I was not entirely convinced of the existence of things that were not me, and I was certain, rock-solid unshakably certain, that I was the most important thing in creation. There was nothing that was more important to me than I was. (p. 156)
|He might BE a 7-year-old boy, currently.|
This book captures in fewer than 200 pages the essence of childhood—how scary it is to be a tiny human in a world governed by full-sized humans (“When adults fight children, adults always win,” p. 87), and the poignancy of that moment in every child’s life when he or she learns that adults aren’t immune to human frailty (“Adults should not weep, I knew. They did not have mothers who would comfort them,” p. 123).
But there’s also magic. And it’s the kind of magic that only children can experience—the pee-your-Underoos, utterly terrifying kind . . . the kind that even parents (especially parents) can’t understand or protect you from.
This is the most darkly whimsical of his books that I’ve read up until now, and it probably fits best alongside the likes of Coraline. There is no Other Father with buttons for eyes. There is, however, a plain-old human father who lies about things that no one should ever lie about.
At home, my father ate all the most burnt pieces of toast. "Yum!" he’d say, and "Charcoal! Good for you!" and "Burnt toast! My favorite!" and he’d eat it all up. When I was much older he confessed to me that he had not ever liked burnt toast, had only eaten it to prevent it from going to waste, and, for a fraction of a moment, my entire childhood felt like a lie: it was as if one of the pillars of belief that my world had been built upon had crumbled into dry sand. (p. 18)
It’s beautiful and compact—and 100% worth the possibility of developing a fear of white sheets flapping in a summer breeze.