One love that David and I share (David may take ownership over it a bit more than I) is Neil Gaiman’s books. His stories have heart and magic in the best possible ways and I’m always excited to read (or watch) his next story. Gaiman’s partnered with Chris Riddell a few times on his children’s stories, where Riddell provides a number of illustrations to accompany the writing. I had no idea Riddell wrote too, until I came across a recommendation of his children’s series Goth Girl by a British booktuber.
Upon hearing the name I knew I had to read it, fancying myself a bit of a goth at times. Not really, but I have an affinity for wearing black, a bit like Neil Gaiman. Hmm, coincidence? I didn’t get around to reading even just the first book in the series for a couple years as I found it incredibly difficult to get a hold of in the states. But when I got my hands on a copy I was surprised to find that Ada, our child protagonist, is not a goth at all. Goth is simply her surname, though a number of gothic things do seem to occur at her father’s estate.
It is refreshing that Riddell treats his (child) readers respectfully, not condescending but rather rewarding the intelligence and preciousness found in young readers. The book is filled to the brim with silly asides, hilarious puns, and more literary references than you could shake an umbrella at. In addition, his prose builds, with deliciously unnecessary adjectives, a dark playground of a world. Riddell’s playful, absurd illustrations compliment these playful, absurd descriptions of Ada Goth’s life, from the tiny illustrations at the beginning of the chapter to the unexpectedly intricate two page spreads. His spidery lines string together adorable ghostly mice and ghastly indoor gamekeepers into something quite, well, gothic.
Underneath all the references and gothic elements, the reader is left with a message that is wholly modern and dare I say slightly political. When exotic creatures start showing up in captivity for a lordly hunt to take place on the estate, you know one girl and some of her friends will find that its up to them to save them from certain death. For a children’s book that hits all the marks for adults just as well as kids, feast your eyes on this literary and artistic story (if you can find it).
P.S. Check out the tiny book in the back after you finish. The mouse-sized poetry is the cherry on atop this adorable cake.