I'm so in love. I've always liked Neil Gaiman. I liked Coroline and have been not to patiently waiting for my libraries copy of Graveyard Book to come back so I can read it again at a more relaxed pace. When the new picture book, Blueberry Girl came in I knew I'd want to read it, but it didn't really sound like Gaiman's normal and I usually hate pictures books written as a ode to my child. Books like Billy's Crystal's which basically would be a vanity press book if he weren't famous and says nothing but "Oh Boy I'm glad I'm going to be a Grampa!"
There is nothing wrong with being happy your going to be a grandparent (or parent) but don't crank out a sappy dumb picture book...trust me there are enough of them out there. And just so Billy Crystal fans out there don't think I'm picking on him....the same goes for Madonna's picture books which are slightly better and try to have a story, but are heavy handed with their message and some have messages way above a picture book audiences' age level and the same also goes for Jamie Lee Curtis' books, which I know some parents love, but leave me cold.
So I was a little leery of Blueberry Girl, after all it promised to be Niel Gaiman's version of a aren't babies great book. He wrote it as a blessing for a friend who was about to become a mom of a little girl. By the second page.....not even by the time I opened the book, I was in love. I don't know how I could have doubted Gaiman....his wishes for the little girl are eloquent and heartfelt and perfect. It's spiritual without being heavy handed about it...though to be fair I guess it leans more toward a goddess centered view. Gaiman's wishes for the girl do not end with a healthy and happy childhood, but stretch into her maturing into a strong and independent woman who is curious enough to explore and wise enough to solve life's problems (or deal with them).
Vess' artwork is in no small part why this book is so great. I didn't recognise his name, but now I'm going to go looking for more of his work. I love love love the illustrations in Blueberry Girl. The fanciful watercolors (?? I think they are watercolors anyway) are just insanely perfect with Gaiman's words. The girls in the pictures range in ages from baby through young adult and their skin tone range from pale peach to deep mocha leaving the book open for children and mothers of all ethnic backgrounds to connect with it. The illustrations also use nature as a backdrop, but there are touches of a suburban window here and a city wall there again leaving the book wide open to all who will read it.
And if all this wasn't enough for me to love the book, on the end flap there is an adorable drawling of Neil and Charles done by Vess which is probably my favorite author picture/photo of at least the last year if not ever. If there is a new mother of a baby girl or an expectant mother of a girl in your life, get her this book!