Neil Gaiman has paired up with illustrator Gris Grimly to create The Dangerous Alphabet. This is not an alphabet book for young readers, unless you like staying up with them all night as they stare at shadows in the corner. Rather, Gaiman wrote a ghostly piratical poem in 26 lines, each starting with a letter of the alphabet, and then gave it to Gris Grimly to illustrate.
Grimly’s style is dark and grim — with a name like Gris Grimly, what do you expect? — what I can only describe as a post-apocalyptic Edward Gorey drawing left out in the rain. As much as I love art, I’m not an expert, but I think the illustrations are a combination of pen and ink with watercolor washes, and they show two little children running for their lives as they get sucked into a horrible world in the city sewers. (It’s rumored Gaiman refuses to go underground anymore.)
This gothic poem should be reserved for older children and adults, but it’s grim drawings and sparse tale will bring you back over and over again to discover the truly amazing detail two incredibly talented authors have managed to pack into 29 pages. I have an overly active imagination, so I tend not to look at art as detailed in morbidity as this, so it is quite likely that those who are less sensitive to their imagination taking hold of them will probably enjoy this more than I did.