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"A perfect reminder to always be on the lookout for magic and wonder. Sometimes, we need those two things the most" (Brightly.com, citing "Books That Teach Kids What It Means to Be a Kind Person").

In this breathtaking jacketed picture book, Neil Gaiman's lyrical poem guides a novice traveler through the enchanted woods of a fairy tale—through lush gardens, a formidable castle, and over a perilous river—to find the way home again.

Illustrated in full color by Charles Vess, Instructions features lush images of mythical creatures, magical landscapes, and canny princesses. Its message of the value of courage, wit, and wisdom makes it a perfect gift.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published April 27, 2010

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Neil Gaiman

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 799 reviews
Profile Image for Michelle.
147 reviews235 followers
October 11, 2019
For a short poem, “Instructions” is substantially enriching and entertaining. Neil Gaiman is clearly a metahuman with knowledge of other realms of reality and immortal beings. The writing is smart and whimsical, and its impact is enhanced by Charles Vess’ charming illustrations. Don’t let its brevity deter you from reading it. Often, it’s the little things that are more worthwhile.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,934 reviews687 followers
May 15, 2022
Gaiman and Vess...what more needs to be said? A wonderful team that I would really like to see tackle other works; bet they could do a 'magical' job on a series of Dr. Strange stories! Hope to see more collaborations with them in the future - always a treat when they get together!
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,253 reviews
October 13, 2011
Oh, dear. Perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood for this particular "journey" today as I don't seem to have loved this as much as most other reviewers... I really did appreciate many aspects of it, and some of the "instructions" are just wonderful (I especially liked the return part of the journey, with all the trust) but some felt a bit awkward or unexplained, especially in the context of the greater journey, and I guess I just wanted a bit more overall. The narrative is not really enough of a cohesive story to be a real fairytale (though it has many allusions to other fairytales) and I guess I wanted a bit more from the philosophy side of it if that was the main focus; but, all in all, I still enjoyed it and appreciated the effort.

The illustrations are splendid; very fairytale and magical and interesting, some lovely and some creepy/dark. Part of me would have liked it better if we didn't actually see ourselves in the story (as a large, upright walking cat, I guess? at least, that was my interpretation) but rather the illustrations were more like looking at these things through our own (the reader's) eyes, so we didn't see that central character (ourselves) but just what that character would see. I think that would have been really neat and drawn me in as the central character even more.

I'm eager now to read back over my friends' reviews as I think this is definitely a story that will appeal to different people in different ways and maybe I will have to read it again sometime and see if I respond to it differently.
Profile Image for Aldrin.
56 reviews252 followers
June 3, 2010
Reading Instructions is akin to being in a hypnotic state. Its first couple of pages suggest that you "Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before. Say 'please' before you open the latch. Go through..." The preceding pithy commands instigate the hypnogenesis; they are the first of many that make up the short poem that flows through this new picture book, the latest collaboration between Coraline author Neil Gaiman and The Book of Ballads and Sagas illustrator Charles Vess.

In Instructions, Gaiman's verses and Vess's drawings come together so pleasantly that you, the reader, is compelled either to adopt a voice that is at least half as mellifluously authoritative as Liam Neeson's or Cate Blanchett's if you have to read audibly (as to your cute little nephew) or to simply speak in your mind (as you would when talking to yourself) with such voice if you choose to read in silence. Either way leads to your being susceptible to suggestion as you are given (By whom? Yourself, technically.) step-by-step instructions on how to get to a faraway place, as strange a world to you as any, and back whence you came.

In Instructions, you are yourself, never explicitly described by Gaiman but visualized by Vess as a kindly anthropomorphic cat. Upon touching the never-before-seen wooden gate, saying "please," and going through it, you enter a world inhabited by a bevy of familiar creatures and characters, encounters with whom evoke matching pieces of advice and references to classic fairy tales--an imp posing as a door knocker ("Do not touch it; it will bite your fingers," A Christmas Carol), a giant eagle ("Ride [it:]; you shall not fall," The Lord of the Rings), a pack of wolves ("Do not tell them where you are going," The Little Red Riding Hood), and three princesses trapped in the highest room of the tallest tower of a castle ("Do not trust the youngest," any fairy tale where the youngest sibling proves smartest), among many others.

You are guided by an all-knowing presence that you yourself have given voice to. Is it just you reading simple words on a glossy children's book with pretty pictures inspired by old Aesop's Fables illustrations? Or is that--dare I say it--your conscience, your old friend, talking?

The deep well you walk past leads to Winter's realm;
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back safely;
you will lose no face.
        I will think no less of you.

These are not instructions for children to follow as they imagine themselves as a heroic and morally upright feline fellow in medieval clothing so much as reminders for adults, young and old alike.

Remember your name.
Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped
to help you in their turn.
Trust dreams.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts will be repaid.
Do not forget your manners.
Do not look back.

You realize that Gaiman and Vess's Instructions is a map, with directions towards home.

Finally, you wake up.

Cross-posted on The Polysyllabic Spree.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,764 reviews1,220 followers
August 12, 2011
This might be my favorite Gaiman book, so far. I always want to love his work more than I do. I don’t know that I adored this, but I really appreciate it. The story is a set of simple instructions, about one per page, about how to live life, and it’s amusing because it uses how to survive a trip through fairy tales as its examples. Most of the time I was thinking How clever! although at times I noticed myself arguing with the philosophy presented, but I appreciated what was being attempted and I was relatively engaged throughout. And got a few chuckles along the way. The illustrations weren’t exactly my cup of tea style wise but they fit the story/instructions perfectly. I think kids will like this book but I think it will be most appreciated by people old enough to have quite a bit of life experience under their belts. It’s one of those great books that can be read on several different levels, differently by different age/stage groups. “Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.” Overall, just lovely!
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,516 reviews42 followers
October 10, 2017
This is "Neil's Guide To Life". And it was illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Charles Vess.
Profile Image for DivaDiane.
948 reviews90 followers
December 10, 2019
Beautifully written poem. It's an interesting construct, a series of commands and recommendations, which tell the story of a Journey, the point of which we never do discover. It's open ended, which is great for the imagination and there's a lot going on in the illustrations which are vibrant and beautiful.
Profile Image for Elidanora.
382 reviews14 followers
August 24, 2017
Esperaba algo mas parecido a Fortunately, The Milk, cómico y tierno, se quedo en tierno.... Igual soy incondicional de Gaiman y trato de leer todo, los dibujos son muy lindos y coloridos.
Leyendo otras reseñas debo confesar que seguro de niña no leí los mismos cuentos que Gaiman y los anglosajones y tal vez por eso no capté el mensaje.
Profile Image for Ksenia (vaenn).
436 reviews206 followers
December 7, 2019
Ураховуючи те, що я взагалі погано сприймаю поезію, мої стосунки з "Інструкціями" - це щось доволі химерне. Але ніде правди діти - люблю нестямно.

Бо це ретелінг. Бо це справді інструкція "Як вижити у казці, нікого не образити й повернутися звідтам більш-менш при собі". Бо це експрес-курс "Найпоширеніші сценарії ініціаційних обрядів" (причому, я б сказала, в більшості випадків ідеться про жіночу ініціацію). Бо це мешап і кросовер, лірична роуд-сторі та легенький горор, філософський етюд з кількома комічними виходами, а ще комплект тизерів та спойлерів до казок різних народів.

А ще це ключик-квінтесенція всієї збірки.
А ще - в цьому конкретному виданні - краса неймовірна.
А ще справді офігенний вірш.
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,258 reviews8,705 followers
February 7, 2018
2/7/18 - ON SALE for $2.68:


Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

I have a confession to make . . . I don’t have much use for Neil Gaiman as far as full-length novels go. I KNOW. *dons sackcloth* *mortifies flesh*

I gave him a more than fair shot, but Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book both bored me to tears, I didn’t make it more than a few chapters into American Gods , and Stardust has the dubious honor of being the only movie that was actually better than the book.


Give him a talented illustrator and tell him to write a new fairy tale (or anything fairy tale-like, really), and that man is a god.


Take INSTRUCTIONS, for example. Technically, it’s a children’s picture book of, yes, instructions, for a fairy tale adventure, but it possesses a whimsy and free-spiritedness that will lighten any heart, young, old, and everything in between.


The assumption that an adventure is forthcoming coupled with the willingness to shake the hand of said adventure are contagious.


The feeling that I might stumble across a door in the hedge that I’d never noticed before persisted long after I’d finished the story, and in this world, anything that can resuscitate your belief in magic, is something worth reading for yourself, don’t you think?


Highly recommended to everyone.

Jessica Signature
Profile Image for Jan Rice.
523 reviews445 followers
April 3, 2013
Just got this and read it for the first time in 10 minutes. I wanted it for the fairy-tale pictures and the how-to prose-poem. Many of the prior reviews say that it's about what to do if one happens to find oneself in a fairy tale, but for me it's just about what to do, period.

Incorporates bits and pieces you will recognize from various traditions and tales, some general and some more idiosyncratic--the latter hinting this could be do-it-yourself advice as well as received wisdom.

It was a birthday gift I had wanted. Why wait for my second childhood? I say take care of the inner child and maybe she won't devour me from inside out.

Profile Image for Odile.
Author 5 books27 followers
May 19, 2010
One of the things that makes Neil Gaiman a relatively unique – and popular – writer is his subtle incorporation of mythological and fairy tale motifs in his fiction. One of my favourite stories in this respect is Instructions, a piece that appeared before in short story collections like M Is for Magic and Fragile Things. It’s great news then, that this little tale has now been published separately with wonderful illustrations by Charles Vess, who’s worked with Gaiman before on works like Stardust and the Sandman classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Instructions, as the title suggests, is a fairy tale written in the imperative. “You”, as a reader/adventurer – represented in the illustrations by Puss in Boots – are instructed to follow certain guidelines and bits of advice, in order to bring the tale to a satisfactory end. Examples include:

[W:]alk down the path.


Inside [the castle:] are three princesses. / Do not trust the youngest. / Walk on.


Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where you are going.

Compared to your usual fairy tale, Instructions is stripped bare of any narrative flesh, so to speak. What remains are the motifs and symbols that actually give a fairy tale its resonating meaning, and that’s why this story is so successful. Presented in this way, the instructions read almost like a poem in which every line counts. The tale also lays bare the relevance – albeit somewhat mystic – these symbols have for everyday life. In the end, the road is open:

And then go home.

Or make a home.

Or rest.

Charles Vess’ lovely illustrations accompany this tale beautifully; his works recall that of classic fairy tale illustrators like Arthur Rackham, though the drawing seem geared a bit more to a younger audience here, with soft colours and lines, broad strokes. In some ways, a far cry from the sometimes quite realistic bloodiness that can be seen in Stardust.

Altogether this is a lovely short work that will delight children and adults alike. Especially recommended for everyone who knows fairy tales are fascinating works for all ages.

[Reviewed for the ABC Blog: < http://www.abc.nl/blog/?p=15087 >]
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,116 reviews186 followers
September 3, 2019
Rich in fairy-tale allusions, and proffering a wealth of advice for the hero upon his archetypal journey, Neil Gaiman's poem Instructions - which first appeared in the fantasy collection A Wolf at the Door: And Other Retold Fairy Tales , edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling - has been remade here as a picture-book, with artwork by Charles Vess. The result is an engaging journey into a landscape that readers of the genre will recognize immediately, and a celebration of all the terrors and joys to be found therein.

Although I enjoyed the poem, its strength, for me, lay chiefly in the allusions, from the mention of the twelve months sitting around the fire (see: Samuil Marshak's The Month-Brothers , or Rafe Martin's The Twelve Months ), to the description of the dangers of spewing diamonds and roses (see: Charlotte Huck's Toads and Diamonds ). As a narrative, it was somewhat lacking, and sometimes felt a little disjointed (yes, even as a poem), but I was willing to forgive that, because of my enjoyment of the references, and the artwork by Vess. Recommended to fairy-tale readers, and to fans of Gaiman and/or Vess.
Profile Image for Sandy.
2,526 reviews59 followers
February 11, 2020
I had to read this book twice to fully appreciate it. The first time through, I think I got half the messages that this book wanted me to get. It also a book that I couldn’t rush through but I had to stop and fully absorb what I read on each page. The illustrations stopped me in my tracks a few times, as I thought they really didn’t match what I thought should go with the words on the page nevertheless, I enjoyed what I read. This book to me was a words-of-wisdom book as each page(s) was about making your way in the world.

The illustrations were just as great as the words in this book. They were fun to look at as they contained a lot of detail and there was the fantasy aspect of them. How can you go wrong with trolls, cats, and beasts? Written by Neil Gaiman, this is what brought me to pick up this one.
Profile Image for Isa (brujitalectora).
46 reviews12 followers
November 3, 2020
Una hermosa moraleja acerca de los caminos de la vida bellamente ilustrada.
Para los más pequeños pero, también, para los adultos que acompañen esta lectura.
Profile Image for Nana.
55 reviews6 followers
June 28, 2022
A short yet mesmerizing poem, "Instructions" will be of inqualifiable value to both children and adults looking for their way (back) through creativity/life — isn’t it the very same thing? — Read it!
Profile Image for Indira.
428 reviews
August 21, 2019
What a neat and curious little book? My co-worker gave it to me yesterday as she felt like it has lots of answers to questions she didn't really know she was asking. And for the family. Cool illustrations.
Profile Image for Lauringui.
282 reviews51 followers
June 27, 2017
Me crucé con esta maravilla en el medio de otros libros, mientras hacía tiempo, en una librería.
No pude contenerme y me lo leí completo. Las ilustraciones cálidas, las palabras justas y la poesía lo envuelven todo.
Profile Image for Karissa.
3,920 reviews192 followers
December 30, 2010
I love Neil Gaiman's stories, poems, graphic novel, and books. So realize that I am giving you this review with a somewhat biased viewpoint. Instructions is a poem that I first read in Gaiman's collection of children's stories "M is for Magic." I loved the poem, which is an somewhat eccentric list of instructions about how to survive a fairy tale...and on a deeper level how to live you life in general.

This is a great book for young children, older children, adults and all ages in between. My three year old finds the book fascinating, as do I. Some people might find the somewhat crazy random and quirky instructions in this book a bit odd. Mostly though this poem is somewhat mysterious, fun, gives incite into fairy tales, and is a wonderful imaginative adventure.

Charles Vess's illustrations add a ton to this book. They are beautiful and mysterious and absolutely perfect for this poem. You can hear Gaiman read the whole book and see all of Vess's wonderful illustrations at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWRvqO1MjIs

So before buying check out the above link to see if this book is for you.

I personally thought this was a wonderful book. It is a great children's book the provokes imagination and introduces both poetry and fairy tales. It is a great adult book in that it sends a message about how to live your life. Adults will recognize references to many popular fairy tales. I absolutely loved this book. I will keep in in my library for ever.
Profile Image for babyhippoface.
2,443 reviews134 followers
April 29, 2011
I'm still trying to figure this one out....

I get that it's Gaiman's answer to Dr. Seuss's Oh! The Places You'll Go. I get that it's saying, "The lessons we learn from fairy tales can help us throughout life." I get that it's full of allusions to fairy tales all through it. But what I'm not getting is ALL of the allusions.

Example: I get the reference to two sisters, one that speaks diamonds and one that speaks toads and frogs. I know that story. But why does Gaiman tell our hero not to trust the youngest of three princesses? In every single fairy tale I can think of with siblings, it is the younger/youngest who is the smartest, bravest, and kindest. So...where is he coming from with this bit of advice?

What about meeting the twelve months? I understand the idea that "Time can be your friend", but is that what he's saying, or is there a specific fairy tale he's hinting at that I'm unaware of? What does "Ride the silver fish" refer to?

Am I asking too much? It's possible. Or maybe I just need to seriously brush up on my fairy tales?
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,334 reviews399 followers
March 22, 2017
Though I do enjoy Vess's artwork, I think I like this poem better un-illustrated, using my own imagination and knowledge of a range of fairy tales & their tropes, to make the pictures for it in my own mind. But getting this poem out to readers is key, so I'm glad this book is making it more widely available. And I'm very glad it's not a big expensive picture-book, but a smaller, more affordable and accessible format.
Profile Image for Theresa.
152 reviews8 followers
May 4, 2015
A picture book kinda for adults, though I would give it to school age kids who love fairy tales/myths or are rather serious children. Love all the fairy tale, folk tale, mythology allusions.

Not a fan of the illustrations - too drab. Though I liked that the illustration of princesses featured one p(rincess)oc.
Profile Image for Kirsty Cabot.
351 reviews51 followers
May 24, 2016
More wonderful weirdness from Gaiman. This time a pleasant and light kind of weirdness, opposed to dark and unpleasant weirdness! Great illustrations, and just beautifully odd. I really enjoyed it.

A great, very short read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 799 reviews

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