The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

Nobody “Bod” Owens is the protagonist of Neil Gaiman’s newest story, The Graveyard Book.  The book starts with the murder of Bod’s family, and his unknowing escape as an 18-month old toddler.  Bod climbs out of his crib and down the stairs, and, finding the front door open, takes the opportunity to explore, unaware that his parents and sister are being ruthlessly stabbed inside.  He ends up at a nearby graveyard, where he is taken in by the dead (and undead) residents.

His story is told in a series of episodes, some seeming more like short stories than part of a larger tale.  He grows from a toddler to a teen under the watchful eyes of his ghostly parents, the ghost of a witch, a werewolf, and a vampire.  The ‘man named Jack’ who murdered his family is still out to get Bod, and brings continuity to the main story of the book.  But mostly, this is the story of how a young human child makes his way in a world populated by those who are so very different than he, much like Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which Gaiman said was his inspiration.

The Graveyard Book is emotionally honest, and serves as a wonderful allegory of childhood.  Bod’s adventures into ancient burial chambers guarded by jealous spirits and the trip he takes into full on danger by entering a ghoul gate juxtapose nicely with his adventures amongst the living, dealing with middle school bullies and greedy antique dealers.

I enjoyed The Graveyard Book quite a bit, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Gaiman’s work.  This is primarily a children’s book, most appropriate for readers aged 9-12, but I suspect young teens might enjoy it as well.  The Graveyard Book was this years winner of the Newbery Medal.

8 thoughts on “The Graveyard Book

  1. I am becoming a fan of Neil Gaiman’s, but even so… when I heard about this book getting the medal, I must confess I felt alarmed like a lot of people did. It’s a pretty brutal premise for a children’s book.

    Maybe the writing is sensitive enough to make it ‘okay’ so to speak, but… I know how sensitive my daughter is, and I don’t think I’d buy her a book that opens with the stabbing murder of a toddler’s family. Odd to find myself aligned with people on that side of the fence, but I *really* really don’t think that’s acceptable material for a children’s book. I don’t let her watch brutal murders on t.v., so why would I let her read about it?

  2. Sounds intriguing. I think I’ll check this one out. I’m actually about to finish a book that’s taken me almost a year to read. That’s how much time I allot for reading 😉

  3. Are they making this into a film? If not they really should. I could see Tim Burton making an excellent job of it.

    Gaiman does excellent short story collections… I really liked Smoke and Mirrors. I certainly plan to read more of his work this year.

  4. Cath, I wasn’t sure about a movie version, though it certainly seemed like a good idea, and both you and Ted mentioned it…so I looked around and yup, they’re going to do it. From Empire Movie News, in London:

    “It’s a good day for dudes called Neil, with reports emerging that Neil Gaiman and Neil Jordan are teaming up on The Graveyard Book, Jordan directing Gaiman’s latest Newberry Medal winning book. This, if indeed signed, sealed and delivered, is a Good Thing.

    Gaiman, arguably Britain’s finest fantasy/horror writer, has written a story that’s a bit like The Jungle Book but with ghosts instead of panthers. It’s about a little boy who clambers out of his crib one night and out of the house – the same night that his entire family is killed by a terrifying man called Jack. The baby wanders into a graveyard, where he is hidden from the killer by friendly ghosts, and then adopted by them. Nobody, as he is then called, is raised by the Owens, a deceased couple, Silas, who’s neither dead nor alive, and a whole graveyard full of spooks.

    The story’s a gorgeous one, with lots of potential for visual trickery and beautiful imagery onscreen, and Jordan – who is reportedly set to write and direct – is a good fit: think Interview with the Vampire but, y’know, for kids! The film will be live-action, with effects apparently set to be done by Framestore right here in London.

    Fingers crossed that this all comes together.”

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