Book of the Week - The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Somewhere in London, a man with a razor-sharp knife creeps up the stairs of a small house where he has already murdered a family. However, the youngest child, a toddler, slips away to a graveyard. The ghosts of the graveyard adopt the child naming him Nobody Owens or Bod for short. Bod is curious and quiet, learning all the ways of the dead, making friends with 200 year old forgotten poets and opinionated witches. As he gets older, Bod goes through a series of adventures both in and out of the graveyard, and he learns that death may be natural but it is life that is more interesting.

When I first started reading this book, I was rather shocked by the darkness of the beginning. Most middle grade books do not begin with a murder followed by ghosts. But it was done so well. At no point was the story overly graphic. Don't get me wrong though, this story is scary and creepy and violent, but it isn't a horror story. This is a dance with the macabre, one to which the reader will feel the goosebumps traveling down their arm as they read about the Sleer and read in horror as the murderer who killed Bods family seeks him out with relentless vengeance.

Another reviewer pointed out that this story is a dark version of The Jungle Book, and I can see that likeness. The important thing about The Graveyard Book is that despite the darkness, it is a book about light and life. Despite the violence, it is a book about peace. Bod is a character with a deep emotional resonance. There is so much depth to the book. Aren't all adults like ghosts to children? These people who share and impart wisdom which is often impractical to the child who wants to play with their friends and simply be.

My one and only complaint would be that the timeline and age of Bod were not always clear, and I didn't find it clear by the way her spoke. No age indicators. He always sounded about twelve to me. A small complaint in the scheme of a great novel.

Question of the Day: Which of these covers is your favorite?


Chris Campbell said...

My vote for the better cover, of course, must go to Dave McKean. While I don't care for his work in 3d (movies), his illustrations are brilliant. I first came to his attention in the early 90's with his CAGES comic, then found his association with Neal Gaiman. Two of my most favorite contemporary picture books are Gaiman/McKean efforts: THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS and THE DAY SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH. I have yet to read THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, however, I am greatly looking forward to it.