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.