“The boundaries are always there—between the graveyard and the world beyond, between life and death, and the crossing of them.”
- Neil Gaiman
Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place-he's the only living resident of a graveyard. Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians' time as well as their timely ghostly teachings-like the ability to Fade.
Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? And then there are things like ghouls that aren't really one thing or the other.
How can one write a review of The Graveyard Book without at least mentioning how much anticipation was there before reading this book. From the very first moment I heard about this story I was anxious to grab myself a copy. But knowing that I planned to take part in the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, I thought what better book to have on hand. But the only problem was buying the book ahead of time I worried I would not be able to hold off until the event came about. So I bought the book the night before the Read-A-Thon, it nearly killed me to wait so long and I avoided bookstores for the week beforehand. But finally the Read-A-Thon came and I could finally start reading The Graveyard Book!
Now normally with anything I anticipate and yearn for so, there always is a bit of disappointment when the final reading is not quite the amazingly fantastic thing I’ve built it up in my mind to be. But with The Graveyard Book, the only disappointment was with the speed I read it and coming upon the final page. I was sad to leave this wonderful Graveyard world and all it’s quirky inhabitants.
Nobody Owens, known to friends as Bod, arrived in The Graveyard one night when he was just a young baby, escaping from his home and the cruel killer stalking it’s many dark rooms. The ghostly residents of The Graveyard sense the danger the child is in and take it upon themselves to protect and raise Bod. Given The Protection of the Graveyard, Bod is able to live amongst the dead almost unseen to the living and able to master many special talents that will keep him safe. Along with his loving adoptive parents the Owens’, Bod also has a mysterious caretaker called Silas, who provides Bod with the human necessities like food that a young boy needs. Almost every ghost within gates of the Graveyard leaves a mark upon Bod’s soul as they care for and teach him things that help shape the person he becomes.
The Graveyard Book was much more than a child’s story, it is a very powerful coming-of-age tale that presents many important aspects of a child’s development both social and psychological. Bod faces many of the same things that a normal child would and his dead caregivers handle them with love and skill. Growing up in this environment makes Bod into a caring and logically thinking boy who seems to understand so much about the living people he has been shrouded from. There seems to be a strong message found within this story of the importance of living your life to the fullest, but only doing so with fore-thought and knowledge of the dangers involved.
The many characters that make up this story are all unique and likable in their own strange ways. I was especially drawn to Silas, and would loved to have heard more about this man’s hidden life. Liza Hempstock, a phantom witch was an extremely engaging friend to Bod, who unknowingly taught Bod much about acceptance, empathy and the wrongness of judging people. A smaller character, but one that made me laugh was Nehemiah Trot, a dead poet who could write an ode at the drop of the hat and also knew the finer points concerning revenge.
Then we have the bad guys, the ghouls who lurked behind the GhoulGate waiting for unsuspecting visitors, the man Jack who stalks Bod endlessly and the very puzzling Sleer. All of whom add chilling moments, mystery and horror to Bod’s adventures.
One of my favourite chapters from this book was Danse Macabre, it involves a event that brings the living and the dead together for a very important time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this chapter and could not help but think that it would make an amazing musical interlude in the style of Tim Burton.
“Rich man, poor man, come away.
Come to dance the Macabray.
Time to work and time to play,
Time to dance the Macabray.
One and all will hear and stay
Come and dance the Macabray.
One to leave and one to stay,
And all to dance the Macabray.
Step and turn, and walk and sway,
Now we dance the Macabray.
Now the Lady on the Grey,
Leads us in the Macabray.
Overall, The Graveyard Book was a wonderfully crafted story, with a plot-twist that left me shocked and a ending that made me both totally satisfied and sad to see come. I found this book shelved under the Young Readers (8-12) section, but I feel this book deserves a place among the adult and teen sections also. I am sure that it would appeal to a large audience and it is written in such a beautiful way that I would also have no problems reading it to a younger child. This is a book that holds a strong appeal to me and has definite re-read value.
About The Author
Neil Gaiman has written something sublime for every reader. The Dictionary of Literary Biography calls Neil Gaiman one of the top ten living postmodern writers, and his lengthy canon of fine fiction and drama leaves no room for argument. Perhaps best—or at least, earliest—known for his horror-weird comic series Sandman, Gaiman has been charming and unnerving his audience since the mid 1980s. The Sandman series collected nine Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, and three Harvey Awards. Sandman #19 became the first comic to ever win a literary award in 1991, when it brought home the World Fantasy Award for best short story. But Gaiman’s panache doesn’t end at graphic media. His prose work Good Omens, written with Terry Pratchett, spent 17 weeks on the London bestseller lists. Likewise well received were his novels Neverwhere and Stardust—which was awarded the prestigious Mythopoeic Award as best novel for adults in 1999. In 2001 Gaiman’s New York Times bestselling novel American Gods earned him even greater attention and many accolades, plus Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, SFX, and Locus awards; and his next novel Anansi Boys debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list in 2005. In January of 2005, the Jim Henson Company production of Mirrormask debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. This sumptuous children’s fantasy was written by Gaiman and directed by his longtime collaborator Dave McKean. Gaiman also wrote the script for the Robert Zemeckis film Beowulf; and at present Gaiman’s book Coraline is being turned into a film by director Henry Selick, with music provided by the band They Might Be Giants. Born and raised in England, Neil Gaiman now lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota.
About The Illustrator
You know it when you see it. Dave McKean’s distinctive style is easy to recognize and impossible to ignore. Those rich collages, those regal, muted colors and striking designs—they couldn’t come from any other artist. From CD covers to book jackets and commercial projects, McKean has done it all; but he’s probably best known for his collaborative work with Neil Gaiman. McKean’s vibrant, evocative Sandman covers set the genre standard and raised the creative bar for comics everywhere. More recently, McKean has collaborated with Gaiman on a pair of children’s books: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (1998) and The Wolves in the Walls (2003); and he also illustrated Gaiman’s 2002 children’s novel Coraline. In January of 2005, McKean made his directorial debut with the highly acclaimed Mirrormask at the Sundance Film Festival. A visually stunning children’s fantasy, Mirrormask was produced by the Jim Henson Company, based on a screenplay written by Neil Gaiman. Dave McKean is also an accomplished jazz pianist, and together with saxophonist Iain Ballamy, he founded Feral Records.
Published by HarperCollins
Cover photo, illustrations and author bios courtesy of TheGraveyardBook.com
© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.