Neil Gaiman has been a long-time advocate for librarians and libraries. A quick Google search with “Neil Gaiman libraries” will bring up a variety of articles, lectures, and blogs dedicated to his thoughts on libraries and reading. Libraries are more than a place with books, but a bastion of freedom, knowledge, and resources. Art Matters does a wonderful job at putting the importance of libraries into words and pictures. Along with Neil Gaiman’s incredible prose, Chris Riddell provides illustrations that bring these ideas to life. I recommend taking a look at more artwork by Chris Riddell. He has also illustrated the children’s series “The Edge Chronicles”, which he also co-authored; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; and J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard, among many others. He also has his own website, which features his illustrations throughout.
Do not let its small size fool you. Art Matters, a collection of four of Neil Gaiman’s essays, is filled with helpful tips on how to persevere in difficult times, be creative, and be true to yourself. The ability to use your imagination and be creative is a vital part of our existence. This book, while a quick read thanks to Gaiman’s amusing prose and the prolific illustrations, will make you think and stay with you for a long time.
The first essay, Credo, originally published in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, is about the power of ideas and the importance of free speech, which is as true today as it was then. The next essay, Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading, and Daydreaming, examines the role of the public library in giving access to ideas, how reading can expand one’s horizons and thoughts, and the importance of encouraging children to read. It states that imagination and daydreams are vital in creating change in the world. The third essay, Making a Chair, compares making a chair to the process of writing or creating art. The final piece, Making Good Art, was originally a speech given by Gaiman which was later published as a standalone book. This piece focuses on the importance of creativity and gives encouragement to artists, with Gaiman discussing how he started his career as a writer. Chris Riddell’s illustrations underscore the message on every page.
While this title is housed in our adult collection, it would also be a wonderful book for young adults, who are starting to figure out who they are and find their voice. The messages in this book are not just limited to people who are conventionally “creative”, either. Even if someone doesn’t consider themselves to be creative because they don’t draw, or paint, or write fiction, there are many ways that someone can be creative, and this book is good for the creative soul in everyone. The back of the book states “Be Bold. Be Rebellious. Choose Art. It Matters”, which does an excellent job of summing up the book. The message “Art Matters” speaks to creative freedom, the importance of ideas, and thinking for oneself.