The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle


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In a beautiful collaboration, New York Times bestselling and Newbery and Carnegie Medal-winning author Neil Gaiman and Kate Greenaway-winning illustrator Chris Riddell have created a thrillingly reimagined fairy tale, "told in a way only Gaiman can" and featuring "stunning metallic artwork" (

The result is a beautiful and coveted edition of The Sleeper and the Spindle that the Guardian calls "a refreshing, much-needed twist on a classic story."

In this captivating and darkly funny tale, Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell have twisted together the familiar and the new as well as the beautiful and the wicked to tell a brilliant version of Snow White's (sort of) and Sleeping Beauty's (almost) stories.

This story was originally published (without illustrations) in Rags & Bones (Little, Brown, 2013). This is the first time it is being published as an illustrated, stand-alone edition, and the book is a beautiful work of art.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062398253
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/14/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 72
Sales rank: 54,764
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.20(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Norse Mythology, Neverwhere, and The Graveyard Book. Among his numerous literary awards are the Newbery and Carnegie medals, and the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Will Eisner awards. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Chris Riddell is an acclaimed British artist who lives in Brighton, England. He has written and illustrated many books of his own, including Ottoline and the Yellow Cat and Ottoline Goes to School, and has illustrated, for Bloomsbury UK, The Graveyard Book; Coraline; and Fortunately, the Milk; as well as The Sleeper and the Spindle.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Date of Birth:

November 10, 1960

Place of Birth:

Portchester, England


Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77


Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Chris Riddell

UK children's laureate Chris Riddell always carries a sketchbook. Every day he draws something in his life — his Tuesday morning cooked breakfast, Laurie Penny's fantastic glasses, and a picture of himself swathed in a cap, captioned in his spiky, precise handwriting: "Off to hold court in the Edinburgh Yurt . . . "

Through these sketches, he keeps his fans up-to-date on his activities and adventures as illustrator, storyteller, human rights and environmental campaigner, political cartoonist, and children's laureate.

I met him in a chilly gazebo, reminiscent of county shows where people compete to make the best jam or cakes, on the penultimate day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

His warmth was immediately apparent, and throughout the interview it became clear that Chris is a natural storyteller, with an uncanny ability to spin everyday occurrences into entrancing yarns.

He is also deeply humane and had spent the morning campaigning for Amnesty International, helping them to raise awareness of Iranian artist Atena Farghadani, who has been jailed for twelve years, for drawing Iranian politicians as monkeys and cows. — Hope Whitmore

The Barnes & Noble Review: You were working with Amnesty this morning?

Chris Riddell: Yes. I sat outside the Parliament and set up these easels, and drew.

Amnesty wanted to demonstrate freedom of expression, and a brilliant way to do that was to set up all these easels and say, "Anyone in this country can draw anything they like, so come and draw anything you like." It's this powerful demonstration of freedom of expression, because this Iranian artist has been jailed for creating a cartoon that was critical of the Iranian government.

BNR: So drawing can make quite a powerful political statement? For example, you work as a political cartoonist for the Observer — drawing [former UK prime minister] Gordon Brown as a little Superman, and that kind of thing.

CR: Oh, I had such an extraordinary moment just today, Hope, when I went to the author's loo, and this man came walking toward me and said [puts on a deep, whisky-ish Scottish accent], "Is it unoccupied?"

And I said, "Yes, yes it is." And it was Gordon Brown.

I opened the toilet door for Gordon Brown, he stepped in and closed it. But the thing was, I looked at him, and I thought, I know that face so well — because I've studied and drawn it — so there I was, faced with one of my characters. And it was a very strange moment.

BNR: Did he recognize you?

CR: No. We've met a couple of times at receptions, but he meets a lot of people. Of course he wouldn't recognize me, but he's a very charming man, because he's a politician, and you know, they have to be charming, and he's lovely, I shook his hand — afterward, obviously. I hope he washed them.

And I was thinking, I just met Gordon Brown. What a lovely thing.

BNR: As a political cartoonist and someone who is passionate about freedom of expression, you were badly affected by the Charlie Hebdo killings in January. I saw your pictures — the "I have no words" image, of a cartoonist at his desk, drawing, and the images of Marianne, the symbol of France, holding her wounded subjects and proclaiming, "Liberté."

As a cartoonist this must have been very difficult. Did it feel personal?

CR: Oh, completely. I mean of course, of course, because we're coming back to freedom of expression — and it's this idea that you can be killed for drawing. And that's an extraordinary concept, that notion that you were not allowed to draw. It's the ultimate human right that has been destroyed, and I think it's tragic, absolutely tragic.

We need to — all of us — need to respect each other, and that's an important aspect of this. I don't think you should cause offense just because you want to cause offense because this is a thing you can do, but at the same time, nobody deserves to be killed for a drawing.

And in my cartoons that I did on the subject, what I wanted to convey, in a sense was a human response. I wanted it to be about sorrow and I wanted it to be about compassion. I wanted it to be the opposite of what the killers had in their mind, which was to destroy life. I wanted it to be affirming, and the drawings I tried to do were figures that were comforting one another.

Like Marianne cradling the wounded artist. I wanted to say, "These drawings are about love, not hate." That was a key issue. It was a horrible, horrible thing for all of us, and for me as an artist, and hopefully my response was a human one.

BNR: And you're also interested in the Arctic — you're currently doing the artwork for Island by Nicky Singer. Can you tell me a bit about that?

CR: It's amazing. Because you know what? I was at Waterstones, because with my children's laureate thing, I get to go to Waterstones and draw on walls and things — so I went to Waterstones in Brighton and I was drawing on a wall, and I turned round and there was my old friend Nicky.

So I said, "Have a coffee," and Nicky told me about this book — Island — that had been a play at the National Theatre.

I thought, This is brilliant, this is a really brave thing to do, and such an important issue. And I thought to myself, How can I help? And she was talking to me about it, and I suddenly thought it might be nice if maybe I offered to do some illustrations.

I've just done the cover, in fact, last month. And it's going to look lovely.

I realized, Hope, I've just praised my own work like that, I just mean that we — we're able to do what we want to do with it — so it's going to be hand-lettered, the whole cover is taken up with the face of a polar bear just looking at us, so it's going to be, just really nice.

I really hope to raise awareness of Arctic drilling and what is at stake.

BNR: What's it about?

CR: Well, It's a book set against the backdrop of global warming.

What it does, which I think is so clever, is it takes a sort of Inuit culture and the notion of spirit life and connection with the environment, and it links that into the modern world and what we've lost in the modern world.

And there's a boy who, in a sense, goes on a journey. He arrives on this island being depressed because he can't get the Internet, and his mum, who's a scientist, has dragged him all this way on an expedition, and he ends by really appreciating and having this visionary sense of Inuit culture, and what is happening to the earth in terms of global warming. It's fable-like, but in a good way. It's like a very tough fable. I mean, it's very lyrical, but it's not soft. It's got a hard core, and I think that's great, and you know, that's Nicky at her best.

BNR: You've also worked with Neil Gaiman and Paul Stewart. You're working with Gaiman on something at the moment, how is that?

CR: I'll tell you exactly how it is Hope. It is fantastic, as you might imagine.

I think of Neil as Gandalf, in his robes, with his staff, and I'm sitting outside my house with my round front door, and Neil comes along — as I call him — "the Wise Wizard Gaiman" and he says, "Do you want to go on an adventure?"

And I say, "Yeah!"

Then we go on an adventure, and I'm never sure where we're going or what we're going to do, but I know it's going to be great — like Sleeper and Spindle, which was an amazing thing, and just came out of nowhere.

So Neil called me up quite recently, and I was on the train to East Croydon, and he said to me — "I've just written a story. Can I read it to you?" and he read me this story, on the train. I wanted to stop everyone else, putting up one hand and going, "Quiet Please, Neil Gaiman's reading me a story here."

And I loved this story he had written.

And he said, "Maybe just think about it. Maybe you'd like to do something with it," so I just said, "OK, send it over in email," and he did, so I've just been playing with that.

We don't know what we're going to do with it. It might be something. It might not be something. But Neil's like that, he just says, "Let's see what magic this is going to turn into."

Because he's a wizard.

BNR: What's it about?

CR: I can't possibly tell you, you see, because it's very, very hush-hush at the moment, but Hope — I'll let you know as soon as it becomes something.

BNR: You've also illustrated Guilliver's Travels, back in 2004. That's a classic. How was that?

CR: I loved it. I worked with Martin Jenkins, who did a retelling of Gulliver, a really, really nice retelling. I'd read Gulliver as a student — the original Jonathan Swift version — and what Martin did was he really brought that language — the Swiftian story — he really made it accessible for kids now.

And there were bits in the Gulliver story that I'd forgotten and they were such wonderful things, and it's such a visual story, and a lot of what I've done afterward, for example The Edge Chronicles — a lot of that came out of Gulliver's Travels. Paul [Stewart] and I have talked about that, and the Floating City of Santefrac is straight out of Gulliver, it's Laputa, and in a sense The Edge Chronicles have been all about characters traveling — it's an absolute Gulliver journey.

BNR: So, you and Paul have this as a template?

CR: Not a template, but I think a mood board, an influence, something that's at the back of our minds. So we write about the Twilight Woods, where people can't die. Well, Jonathan Swift had that in Gulliver's Travels, the Immortals, they can't die — they just decay. It's a wonderful concept. Jonathan Swift invented zombies. It's great. BNR: You collaborate with other writers, but you also create your own stories, like Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, and Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death. Can you talk about this a bit? How do illustration and story go together?

CR: Well, when I was quite young, I went to see a publisher, and he said to me, "Do you do stories? I'd like to see your stories."

So I said, "Oh Yes, I have a story but I didn't bring it with me."

And I went home and wrote one that night. And that story, I think, came from the fear I felt as a child when I lay in bed not wanting to look under the bed in case there was something underneath. I created a story where there was something under the bed, but it was something so lovely that no child would be afraid to look under there.

And that was when I realized that if I wanted to be an illustrator I had to find stories, and if I couldn't find stories I had to write my own stories, and I've been doing that ever since.

Finding writers who'll write me stories, like Paul Stewart or Neil Gaiman, but when they're busy and I can't reach them I write my own stories.

BNR: You wrote Goth Girl yourself. Where did Ada Goth, come from? She's very lonely, very much an outsider — was that a way of reaching out to children who think of themselves as outsiders?

CR: It can be. Of course it can be, but I think that stories are interesting when they look at where characters might be, and I think it's more interesting to take a character's who's in a place where they don't want to be, and the story takes them somewhere. I love that. You invest in a character and what needs to happen for them, and you develop that.

So for Ada, I thought the idea of her being lonely was a good one and that actually her journey is making friends and finding out that she's not alone, and then helping someone who is alone. You know, she helps Ishmael (the mouse) make his transition. And you know, I like that. I like an emotional context to a story.

BNR: I think Ada Goth is beautiful.

CR: I spent a long time trying to work out what Ada looked like, and I did a lot of different versions, and she just didn't look quite right, and then I went to a friend's Christmas party, and I walked into the room and I saw Ada, and it was my friend Lee's daughter Morwenna. She was exactly the right age for Ada, and she had this very amazing, expressive hair — lots of hair — and she had very firm eyebrows, and I thought — that's Ada!

And I said to Morwenna, I said, "Would you mind if I put you in the book I'm writing?" And she looked at me as though I was a bit crazy and said, "Yes, all right."

So I drew my idea of Morwenna, and she is Ada Goth.

Now, Morwenna, I saw her just a couple of weeks ago — she's now fourteen — very fashionable, but I think she likes the fact that her younger self is in this book, and she'll always be Goth Girl.

BNR: It must be amazing for a child to be in a book in that way. You've just been made the children's laureate (in January of this year) what do you want to do in this role?

CR: Do you know, I'm still working that out, Hope. I mean, I'm at the beginning of something and what I'm finding out is that it's a lot of fun.

I would like to get some people I know together and I would love us to sit down and maybe demonstrate what we love about drawing, so it could be all of us sharing a stage where we all draw together, it could be musicians playing music while we draw and other things happen.

There is a Chinese tradition where a poet will read a poem, some actors will perform a play, and artists will paint on scrolls, and they do it all together, and that is an event people come to see. And I think that is a lovely thing. We should do something like that.

I'd like to see if I can say, "I'm children's laureate, everyone come here and do this."

BNR: And how can you encourage more children to read?

CR: I think one of the really important things is the school library as a haven, as a place where you can almost retreat from school life and you can encounter books you are going to love forever, in this safe haven, that is the school library at the middle of your school, and I want to really celebrate this.

School librarians often get overlooked, when people are talking about school standards and stuff, and I think school librarians are some of the most important people because what they do is, they introduce children to books. They find a book and they say, "You're going to like this book, trust me on this."

And that's brilliant, because what they do is, they create readers. And we all need readers. Everyone who does children's books needs readers to be created, and I think that if we don't celebrate school libraries and the job that school libraries do, we are not going to create the readers of the future, and it's interesting talking about this at Edinburgh, where we're surrounded by readers, and it's lovely, isn't it? But we mustn't ignore the readers coming through. We must always be aware of that.

November 25, 2015

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The Sleeper and the Spindle 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting retelling of several faerie stories, with amazing graphics that match the mood of the story perfectly. Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A different twist on an old tale as only Mr Gaiman can tell.
acuneo More than 1 year ago
This book seemed like it was made for me. It is an intriguing feminist fairy tale retelling with gorgeous illustrations, so everything I love. I don't want to spoil to much about the book because I loved the experience of reading without any knowledge then what it is about. The beginning was a bit confusing so I will say this. There are three dwarfs who are traveling to get a present for their Queen and they run into this town where they learn of a sleeping sickness that creeping towards their Queen's kingdom. They rush back to tell the Queen and thus this sets up the journey that is not what you expect.  The Queen is by far my favorite character. She is a true leader, putting herself in harm's way to save her people. I loved the fact that she left before her wedding and gave her fiance like zero warning. Also there was a hint that she has a Snow White style backstory so I EAGERLY awaiting that tale.   As for the illustrations, Riddell put a mind-boggling amount of work into them and I would to have a few as prints. His work reminds me of Monstress and Cursed Pirate Girl.  I know that I haven't said a lot in this review, but the story is only 60 pages long so I recommend checking it out at your local bookstore or library and experiencing this beautiful story. 
BookPrincessReviews More than 1 year ago
2.5 crowns. I think. We're going with it since I'm into 3 crowns now. This was my first time with the great Neil Gaiman, and I'm not sure how I entirely felt about it. I picked up this book not knowing anything about it other than I had saw it recently in a book store and I'm forever sold on anything that is Sleeping Beauty. I didn't even know it was a graphic novel??? So imagine when I pop it open and it's filled with pictures AND IS SOMEHOW A MASHUP OF SNOW WHITE AND SLEEPING BEAUTY. BE STILL MY PRINCESS HEART. I have to give so much props to Gaiman for thinking of these two to mash up. I mean, it's totally genius. They both have dealt with sleeping curses, and this book totally showcases girl power at its finest. Snow is fierce and totally kicks butt when all of the other men/princes/idiots that decided to climb the wall, she is determined to help a fellow princess in need. I thought this had a very cool fairytale feel to it. The illustrations weren't always my favorite, but they were just so interesting. I didn't always find them pleasing, but I thought there was just something so artistic and lovely in a way that I found the art to be pleasing as a whole. I absolutely love what the artist did with hair. THE HAIR WAS SO EPIC. As for the plot, I had some struggles at times. I got confused in certain parts - especially since we didn't have names and I really got confused on the three powerful women's storylines at parts. I did really enjoy the plot twist, but I thought the ending was really abrupt and super unsatisfying since it felt so out of the blue? Overall, this was a quick read with some pretty pictures and a cool premise. There were some struggles, but it was a nice read overall. 2.5 rounded up to 3 crowns and a Pocahontas rating since she has the best hair as well.
RJGM More than 1 year ago
I knew absolutely nothing about this book when I started it (other than the obvious, that it's a Sleeping Beauty retelling)... and I think that's the way you have to do it. I hadn't seen that one illustration that other reviews mention - or if I had, I'd forgotten it by the time I read the book - so I wasn't expecting LGBTQ+ rep or anything else. The only expectation I had was that it would be weird and great and have beautiful illustrations, because I love both Gaiman and Riddell. And guess what? I was RIGHT. Weird, check; great, check; beautiful illustrations, supercheck. This book was nice and short, but still managed to have fully-formed characters and a mostly-engaging plot (and a great plot twist). I found myself a little confused in parts; I think this is because the book was so short, and there wasn't much room for explanation. In general, though, I really enjoyed the story. It was fun, a quick read, not too emotional*, and an interesting twist on an old story. *a big plus for me lately, since every single book seems to make me cry...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Two classic fairytales mixed together with a twist!
JollyRogerBooks More than 1 year ago
The Sleeper and the Spindle is actually my first Neil Gaiman book (yeah shocking i know, but i haven't gotten around to any of his famous stories, not even Coraline) and i have to say his rhythmic writing takes a bit to get used to but it is very beautiful once you are used to it. This short novella is both a retelling of Sleeping Beauty & Snow White at the same time and it's quite intriguing. I don't really know how much I'd call this LGBT unless the Queen is Bi as this book doesn't really have much of a romantic aspect to it. And how can it when the book is barely 70 pages in length and filled with absolutely gorgeous illustrations. Even within 70 pages, this story took interesting twists that i wasn't expecting. It is a cute story and i really want to know more about the Queen and her journeys.
TsukinoMermaid More than 1 year ago
I kind of thought that the book was going to be thicker and like an actual book, but nonetheless, the book was amazing. The illustrations were beautiful, especially the 2 page ones. Loved the story line, and the ending.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
What wonderful illustrations! Before I read this book, I thumbed through its pages just admiring the images. The illustrator’s work was incredible with his use of multiple lines and wonderful details on every page. The faces of the characters and the webbing that coated the sleepers as they sleep really caught my attention. For it’s off to Dorimar for the three dwarfs to buy the finest silk for the Queen. Within the week, the Queen will be wed. On their journey, the three stop at an inn where the innkeeper warns them that they need to turnaround and leave quickly. Shopping is not in their future. Sleep has come to the countryside and it will soon be upon the Inn, they must leave now. It was caused by a witch, a bad fairy, an enchantress; everyone has their own version on what to call this enchanted being that initiated this havoc. She was angry when she cast her spell, firing down her curse which individuals have tried to break unsuccessfully. Returning, the Queen listens as the dwarfs explain the enchanted sleep to her. Immediately putting her things in order so she may leave, she follows the dwarfs back to the Inn where they discover everyone is sleeping. Their journey is just beginning for them as they try to find where this curse originated and if they can put a stop to it. A great fairytale that I really enjoyed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago