Neil Gaiman (text), Divya Srinivasan (illus.),  Cinnamon,  Bloomsbury/Allen & Unwin,  April 2017,  40pp.,  $24.99 (hbk),  ISBN: 9781408879238

A collective gasp of excitement when I opened up the latest pack of books to review, and one of them had the name “Neil Gaiman” on the cover. He’s a bit of a fave around these parts. Cinnamon is a story of a young girl, a princess, who was born blind but who also, for reasons her parents could not fathom, did not talk. They offered great riches to anyone who could teach her to speak, but nothing worked. One day, a mighty tiger prowled into their palace, and everything changed…

Gaiman has crafted within the pages of this book a new kind of fable (seriously, can this guy even write a shopping list without reinventing the genre?), one of trust and overcoming fears, of knowing when to leave the comforts of convention behind and to embark on a journey to embrace the new. It’s a tale of finding your voice and having the courage to keep it even if others don’t necessarily like what you have to say.

Exquisitely illustrated, Srinivasan’s images are the perfect accompaniment and illumination to Gaiman’s words. As you turn each page you feel as though you are leafing through a volume of one of the fairy tales or legends of old.

Gaiman’s writing here is lyrical, almost melodic in its structure, like a lullaby… but one that reminds you every so often that strange things await you in the land of story and sleep. Cinnamon is in picture-book format, and I’m thinking that early school-age kids (i.e., in Prep or Grade 1) will be a good target audience… it certainly won’t be like any of the books they’ve read or been read up until now, and I think in this case that that’s a good thing. It’s classic but unconventional at the same time, if that makes sense. It pays homage to tradition whilst crafting something new and progressive.

And, if nothing else, it’s one of those beautiful books that you cherish – it’s lovely to hold in your hands, to look at… it’s lovely to read aloud or just to yourself… it’s just lovely, and the sort of thing there should be more of for kids.

Reviewed by Christian Price


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