The Graveyard Book
The Graveyard Book
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Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean
ISBN HarperCollins
HarperCollins, 2008.
Newbery Medal, Hugo Award
5 stars
Keywords: coming-age ghosts ghouls graveyard-book murder neil-gaiman nobody-owens orphan

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean

As you may know, this book won the Newbery Medal earlier this year, but it is worth mentioning as the perfect Halloween book for the whole family (that includes adults). From the opening scene of this spine-tingling book (“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife”),  listeners of all ages will sit with rapt attention. Teachers and librarians have insisted that children as young as 8 years old are not scared off by that opening because Neil Gaiman so quickly introduces a great deal of humor. The hand holding the knife belongs to a man named Jack, who has just killed a man, his wife and their “older child.” But their toddler gets away. The toddler takes refuge in the nearby cemetery and is discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, longtime residents of the gated graveyard. Mr. and Mrs. Owens name the toddler Nobody. Nobody Owens. “Bod” for short. Silas, the caretaker of the graveyard, tells the Owens, “It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will... take a graveyard.” And indeed, all of the deceased inhabitants pitch in for his education.

 

Neil Gaiman has a lot of fun with the story: While Bod remains within the confines of the cemetery, the boy possesses the same "Freedom of the Graveyard” granted to the ghosts—the ability to see in the dark and to mingle unseen among the living. But once Bod leaves the graveyard gates, the ghosts cannot protect him. And of course the day comes when he makes a friend from the outside, and wonders what it would be like to venture out. The cast of characters includes all manner of personalities from different eras, including an old Roman named Caius Pompeius, a tutor called Miss Lupescu with some strange and handy talents; and a hack poet—but beware the swiftly-moving ghouls!  This is, most of all, a coming-of-age tale, in which Bod tests the boundaries in order to become a young man.

 

Watch and listen to the author read aloud his own work. Happy Haunting!

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