The delights of The Little Endless – The Little Endless Storybook and Delirium’s Party
By Jill Thompson
Based on The Endless characters created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg
There’s a joy in listening to a story being read to you, and likewise there’s a joy in reading aloud for someone else. We read all sorts of books to Molly when she was younger (and still do – you’re never too old!)
But me being me, I was always on the lookout for comics I could share with her, and The Little Endless Storybook came along at just the right time – a perfect book to read aloud. In fact it worked so well that Molly’s copy, the original paperback release, is now practically falling apart on the shelf and I’ve had to get a new hardback copy for her.
The concept is simple – Neil Gaiman’s Endless characters – the embodiments of (from left to right in the portrait below) Desire, Despair, Delirium, Dream, Death, Destiny and Destruction are reimagined by Thompson as a group of wonderful, absolutely delightful chibli style little characters – a Muppet babies for Sandman readers if you will. Delirium, youngest of The Endless and once called Delight, is a scatterbrain, prone to confusion, strange imaginings and a habit of finding fun and weirdness in the strangest of places and most bizarre of ways.
Cuteness only gets a book so far however, and what really made it work was the beauty of Thompson’s watercolour artwork and the simple, flowing text that combine to create a fully formed world of whimsy, cuteness, amazement, and wonder.
In The Little Endless Storybook Delirium manages to lose herself and it’s up to her puppy Barnabas to travel through the realms of The Endless to find her again. It’s cute, it’s lovely, and written in a beautiful flowing, repititious, rhythmic style it’s perfect to read out loud to a tired and happy toddler.
(Once upon a time, in an ice-cream-coloured realm,
there lived a tiny little princess named Delirium and her dog Barnabas.
It was Barnabas’ job to look after the princess
because she was very easily distracted and often got lost
if she went out walking by herself.)
And now, many years later we have Delirium’s Party – where Delirium, late one night after a visit, decides that it’s time to get her grumpy sister Despair to smile. And what’s the best way to do that?
“What is it that everyone loves more than anything? More than zucchini toast and glockenspiels and the tiny, scary, toothity fish that live in the inky parts of the oceans?”
“A nap?” replied Barnabas hopefully.
Nope, a party. A party for all of The Endless. And she goes and organises it all, in suitably delirious, completely ridiculous fashion, as outrageous and out of control as her ever-changing hair. But as each of the siblings presents their gifts to Despair, not one of them manages to raise even the slightest of smiles. All seems lost and it could all end in tears. But Delirium isn’t one to give up so easily.
(“SUUHH-PRIIIZE!!” Delirium shouted as
the family burst out to greet their sister.
“…” said Despair, her face set as if in stone.
“SURPRISE! SURPRISE! SURPRISE! SURPRISE!”
giggled Delirium as she danced about the room.
Yet, Despair only said, “…”
And did not smile.)
It’s beautifully done, as you can see, with Thompson’s lush full-page watercolours a counterpoint to snappy dialogue between Delirium and Barnabas. It manages to be sweet as candy, but not sickly so, cut with a sharpness and sense of glorious out of control whimsy, packed with wild and wacky visual touches, it really befits a character once called Delight and now Delirium.
It almost, but not quite, lives up to the highest of standards set by The Little Endless Storybook. The art is every bit as good as the original, but the storyline and ideas suffer from being the sequel. Something’s missing. Not a huge something, but enough to make it pale, just slightly, in comparison. Where The Little Endless Storybook was perfectly paced, with a repeating flowing style, lovely rhymes and repeated phrases and ideas that built and built so that Molly soon relished the next set-piece. Here, it’s not so successful, it doesn’t flow quite so well, it doesn’t repeat so effectively.
But being slightly less than the perfection of The Little Endless Storybook isn’t the end of the world by any means – As it is, it’s a beautiful little delight, all wrapped in a beautifully made package – consider it the second favourite chocolate in the weirdest selection box you’ve ever seen. But spoil yourselves – why stop at one, don’t you deserve a little more Little Endless in your life?