Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Instructions” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.28  ·  Rating details ·  6,511 ratings  ·  735 reviews
"A perfect reminder to always be on the lookout for magic and wonder. Sometimes, we need those two things the most" (, 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 cas
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by HarperCollins
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Instructions, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Jeremi Finn These are instructions for living a good life. They may be more geared towards folks living in a fairy tale, so they are really useful to almost every…moreThese are instructions for living a good life. They may be more geared towards folks living in a fairy tale, so they are really useful to almost everyone.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,511 ratings  ·  735 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Instructions
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Jon Nakapalau
Gaiman and Vess...what more needs to be said?
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 ...more
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 Instructi
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all ages/stages; those who like philosophical picture books & are familiar with fairy tales
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 ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is "Neil's Guide To Life". And it was illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Charles Vess. ...more
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Ernesto Alvarado
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great illustrations. Great book for young readers.
Gaiman and Vess were born to create together. Gaiman knows something about words, Vess knows something about shapes. The outcome is... well you have to see it yourself. The best is still Stardust: Being a Romance within the Realms of Faerie. ...more
ana ⚔
Dec 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
"Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story." ...more
Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁
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.

Jan Rice
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 birth
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 Stardus ...more
Sep 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fairy-Tale Lovers / Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess Fans
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 ...more
Penny Ramirez
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully illustrated instructions for surviving every fairytale ever written.
Lindsey Rojem
I read this for the "A Hardcover" part of my 2020 reading challenge. Instructions for having a great adventure, it was simple and lyrical and perfect. ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 m ...more
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 thr
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
Mar 21, 2017 added it
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. ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Kirsty Cabot
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kid-books
Neat illustrations, but the text will be way over the heads of young children. A certain amount of foreknowledge of the ways and memes of fantasy and fairy tales is helpful/necessary.
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
LOVE LOVE LOVE this picture book. Could be for young and old because you will take from the words and gorgeous illustrations that which has meaning for you.
Aug 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Short children's story by a master writer. Exactly as titled. 6 of 10 stars ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So heartwarming and sweet. Loved this short story.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read this book. Pay close attention to what you see and feel. Heed the instructions carefully. Don't read it alone. When you're done be proud.

You'll understand later.
Brianna Silva
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: kids
Unique format, but this one doesn't really work for me. The lack of a cohesive narrative structure makes it a bit less endearing imo than many of Gaiman's other stories. ...more
Zoe's Human
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lt
A beautifully illustrated journey through fairytale lands.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Wonder Woman at Super Hero High
  • Scarlet Witch, Vol. 3: The Final Hex
  • Travel Guide for Monsters
  • The Change Your Name Store
  • Raising Dragons
  • Scarlet Witch, Vol. 2: World of Witchcraft
  • Mooncakes
  • How to Talk to Girls at Parties
  • The Red Mother Vol. 3
  • The Mischievians
  • Snow, Glass, Apples
  • Evie in the Jungle
  • House of Whispers, Vol. 1: The Power Divided
  • Cold Snap
  • Death: At Death's Door
  • Mummy Cat
  • Swarm of Bees
  • Jolene (Elemental Masters, #15)
See similar books…
See top shelves…

Related Articles

  Here at Goodreads, we've noticed that a funny thing tends to happen when we start talking about audiobooks: The same few titles get...
59 likes · 15 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“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.” 83 likes
“When you reach the little house, the place your journey started,

you will recognize it, although it will seem

much smaller than you remember.

Walk up the path, and through the garden gate

you never saw before but once.

And then go home.

Or make a home.

And rest.”
More quotes…