The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection (The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, The Wolves in the Walls, Cinnamon, Crazy Hair) by Neil Gaiman
The only thing better than one of Neil Gaiman’s children’s stories is one of Neil Gaiman’s children’s stories read to you by Neil Gaiman. Do not pass these up when you see them. I found these four stories in audio format at my library, both individually and as the cleverly titled The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection. If your library doesn’t have them, you can purchase them separately for less than $2 each at Audible, or you can purchase the entire collection, which was released by HarperAudio in January 2015, for $9. (Ummmm…. let’s do the math here… purchasing them separately seems like a better deal, however, the complete collection ends with Maddy Gaiman interviewing her dad, and it’s pretty cute and worth the extra few cents, although you can find a longer version of the same interview here.)
Here are the stories in order of their appearance in the collection:
- The Wolves in the Walls — (16 minutes) Lucy hears screeching and scrabbling noises in the walls of their house. She feels sure that it’s wolves, but her mother says the noises are mice, her father says they’re rats, and her big brother suggests that bats are in the walls. One thing everyone agrees on: If wolves come out of the walls, “it’s all over.” Lucy doesn’t know what that means, exactly, but she’s about to find out. This is a creepy story that turns silly. Dave McKean illustrates a print version of The Wolves in the Walls.
- Cinnamon — (8 minutes) A princess with pearls for eyes doesn’t seem to be able to talk. Her parents offer rewards for anyone who can teach her, but so far nobody has been able to. Then a large tiger shows up and asks to be put in a room with the princess. Will he teach her to talk? Or will he eat her. This is a sweet and silly story that is not available in book form, but is available on Gaiman’s website.
- The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish — (13 minutes) Ignoring his little sister’s warnings, a boy gives his boring dad (all he does is read the paper) to a friend in exchange for two goldfish in a bowl. When Mum gets home, she’s pretty mad, and she demands that the boy go to his friend’s house and get Dad back. So off he goes, little sister in tow, and asks for Dad. The problem is that the friend thought Dad was boring, too, so he swapped Dad to another kid for something more entertaining…. and on it goes through several swaps as the boy tracks down Dad while his little sister offers commentary about her big brother’s behavior. This is my favorite story in the collection. It’s Maddy’s favorite story, too. Dave McKean illustrates a print version of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.
- Crazy Hair — (3 minutes) Anyone who has ever seen a photograph of Neil Gaiman can imagine why he wrote this cute little poem in which he explains to a little girl named Bonnie why his hair is so messy. Then he lets her comb it. There’s a lot going on in that hair, as you’ll discover along with Bonnie in this adorable 3 minute episode. Here’s the print version of Crazy Hair illustrated by Dave McKean.
- BONUS: At the end of The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection is Maddy Gaiman’s interview with her father. She’s about 10 years old at the time (she’s now an adult) and asks him about his children’s stories, why he became a writer, whether he prefers writing for kids or adults, how it is to work with Dave McKean, why he loves to listen to audiobooks, what he’ll be working on next (The Graveyard Book), and more. Maddy is adorable and she gives a great interview. The original interview is 15 minutes long, but in the collection, it’s been abridged to 7 minutes.
As amusing and sweet as these stories are, the best thing about this audio collection is that they’re read by Neil Gaiman himself. I don’t know what it is, but when Gaiman tells a story, he’s completely compelling and irresistible. Children love his voice and I suspect that they feel like he’s in the room talking to them personally. That’s what it sounds like. I am certain that these stories wouldn’t have the same impact if read in print. However, the advantage of the print version is Dave McKean’s art, of course! Ideally, you’d listen to Neil read the story while looking at McKean’s art.
This would be an excellent collection for any child or a parent who has to travel in a car with a child. I imagine that they’ll be asking for these stories over and over. And, actually, this collection isn’t just for children. Most parents will love it just as much as the kids do.