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Melinda

Neil Gaiman, Author, Dagmara Matuszak, Illustrator
Neil Gaiman, Author, Dagmara Matuszak, Illustrator . Hill House $90 (64p) ISBN 978-0-931771-04-0
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The heroine of the latest book by Gaiman (Sandman ; American Gods) is a jaded young girl, playing in a ruined urban landscape populated by rats, crows and sinister-looking pike. Gaiman approaches the story as if he were writing a children's book, using rhythm and rhyme to move readers from page to page. Fortunately, he knows that the best children's stories—like Grimm's fairy tales—are appealing in no small part because they're dark. The tale is really more of a mood piece than a full-fledged story, but that atmosphere shows off newcomer Matuszak's art to great advantage. Matuszak combines b&w ink illustrations with color plate inserts to create the effect of an illuminated manuscript. Her linework has a sketchy quality that nicely conveys the story's gritty, urban surroundings, and the washed, muted colors of the inserts. Hill House has done a superlative job presenting the book, making it an art object in its own right. Heavy, flecked paper showcases the b&w illustrations, and watercolor inserts bring the most memorable elements into stark relief. The price tag for such a slim volume is hefty, but the book includes a plate signed by Gaiman, so Gaiman completists with deep pocketbooks will find it worth the asking price. (Mar.)

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