Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl
illustrated by Charles Vess
Book review by Natasha Withers
A prayer for mothers, their daughters and the other women who influence them
Ladies of light
and ladies of darkness
and ladies of never-you-mind,
this is a prayer for a blueberry girl.
First, may you ladies be kind.
New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman is best known for his creepy, crawly, hair-raising writing style. To be honest, I never thought that the writer of stories likes Coraline or The Wolves in the Walls would produce a piece of work as beautiful and inspiring as Blueberry Girl. Well…excuse me while I take the goat hairs out of my mouth.
A good explanation for the creation of this book is that Gaiman wrote this poem for a friend of his who was going to become the mother of a little girl. More and more people read it and eventually he decided to publish it with the help of the amazingly talented illustrator, Charles Vess, who also worked on another book of Gaiman’s called Instructions.
Let me start off by saying that Blueberry Girl is not actually a story so much as a long poem in the form of a prayer. Gaiman’s style of writing in this book is reminiscent of Seuss’s rhyming form. It lends itself to being read out loud, even when you’re reading alone; you simply can’t help but want to hear these words bouncing off the walls in the room. Believe me, once you start reading this to mothers and daughters they will not settle for a silent reading of this book ever again…at least I wouldn’t.
“Dull days at forty,
false friends at fifteen—
Let her have brave days and truth,
Let her go places
That we’ve never been,
Trust and delight in her youth.”
Blueberry Girl has no plot other than the beginning of two lives: one of a newly born daughter and one of a newly made mother and the hope that both these lives will positively influence one another. Gaiman says what all mothers want for their daughters, but may not be able to place into words. My mother often told me that when she was waiting for me to be born, she didn’t pray for me to be rich, famous, a genius, or even talented and successful; she simply prayed that I would be healthy, happy, and wise and that she would be able to guide me as I grow. I believe that though Gaiman is quite obviously not a mother, he completely understood these often unspoken prayers and probably had being a father to thank for that.
As new mothers should also avoid doing, Gaiman never hopes for an easy life for the girls depicted in this book; obstacles are not wished away and inevitable trials are not sugar-coated. He graciously prays that these young girls will be able overcome those obstacles and become all the better because of them:
Help her to help herself,
help her to stand,
help her to lose and to find.
Illustrator Charles Vess did a remarkable job of taking a poem that was intended for a single mother and daughter (Gaiman’s friend) and transforming it into a work of art that is now aimed at all mothers and daughters of many diverse backgrounds. On almost every page, young girls of the world are living and growing as happily as they can with beautiful and enchanting guardian animals watching kindly over them. Between Gaiman’s verse and Vess’s artwork, this book is, in my opinion, one that you will definitely want to preserve for many years.
An inspiring read, a timeless message, and a breathtaking poem, Blueberry Girl is a priceless treasure for all girls: mothers, daughters, and daughters who one day will become mothers themselves.
Reviewer's note: Page down on Amazon and see the trailer with Gaiman reading the poem.
Read more of Natasha's reviews.
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