on September 30, 2008
Genres: Middle Grade, Paranormal
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family...
Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.
Another one for my Newbery Award Reading Challenge! Somehow, I had never read anything by Neil Gaiman. The closest I had come until last week was seeing the movie Stardust. Which was…different. This is what sticks out most in my memory from that movie because for whatever reason it struck me as absolutely freaking hilarious:
Ahem. Yes, I might have the sense of humor of a 12 year old, at times. ANYWAY. This was my first foray into Gaiman’s works, and it definitely won’t be the last. I thoroughly enjoyed this middle grade novel, and hope that his adult books are just as entertaining if not more so. So without further ado, I present my review of The Graveyard Book!
There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
Well, if that’s not a hair-raising beginning I don’t know what is! The first chapter was very creepy and just odd enough to make me suspect that something more than just a mass murder was afoot. Thankfully for the target age range, this chapter is by far the most creepy and the rest of the book is mostly adventures and Bod (the MC) growing up.
How you interpret or read this book is going to be greatly effected by how familiar you are with its inspiration, which was Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The resemblance is clear but the characters and setting are SO different and I love the way Gaiman wove in supernatural legends to the basic story of a child raised by ghosts. While all the events of Bod’s growing up years are connected, many of the chapters read like individual short stories, especially when there are jumps in time as Bod grows older.
Silas, Bod’s guardian, is a character that puzzled me right up until the very end. “Not dead but not alive” is the description given of him, along with a few other things that REALLY should have clued me in but for whatever reason I was oblivious. Even though he is Bod’s ultimate authority, Bod is mostly raised by the benevolent ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Owens, along with many other helpful specters. As it is stated in the beginning, when the ghosts decide to allow Bod the protection of their borders, “It will take a graveyard,” to raise the lost boy properly.
I thoroughly enjoyed Bod’s journey. As he moves through very young childhood towards his teen years, he meets many creatures from outside the world of the living. He talks to people centuries old. He learns things. Gradually, he comes to realize that while the graveyard has offered him protection and care in the best way its residents know how, he will have to leave in order to learn about the current world outside. Leaving though, is full of peril, because the evil that killed his parents and older sister, still seeks after him. Bod however, is not a shrinking violet.
“Well,” said Bod. “If I go outside in the world, the question isn’t, ‘who will keep me safe from him?'”
“No. It’s ‘who will keep him safe from me?'”
A confrontation looms closer and closer, and at last Bod has his chance to avenge his family and reclaim his own life. This is the one part of the story that I really felt unsatisfactory. Though in the end, the reason for the murder of Bod’s family and the attempted murder of Bod is somewhat explained, it’s really a very murky, insubstantial reason that left me squinting at the book and thinking, “That’s it?” The ending is rather bittersweet too, as Bod realizes that, with the world safe for him at last…he must go out to seek his own fortune.
Overall, this was an entertaining coming-of-age story, with a unique twist. Bod is a very plucky little guy, and his spirit made me smile all the way through.
Bod said, “I want to see life. I want to hold it in my hands. I want to leave a footprint on the sand of a desert island. I want to play football with people. I want,” he said, and then he paused and he thought. “I want everything.”
“Good,” said Silas.