Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy.
He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.
There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.
But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family. . . .
Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, the graveyard book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.
My Review (May Contain Spoilers)
I really, really liked this book. And no, it’s not because I’m madly in love with Neil Gaiman (seriously – he looks like a rock star!), but because he can write a damn good book. The Graveyard Book falls into the category of Juvenile/Children books, according to Neil. I’ve only read two other books of his from this category – Stardust and Coraline – and I was intrigued the whole way through both of them. Enough so that I tried to read them in any instance I had, in any spare moment of time. Even the movies were wonderful. But maybe I’m just biased.
Back to The Graveyard Book.
On the first page, we learn the fate of the main character’s family. It was a scary beginning, which made me wonder what age exactly a “juvenile” is, but I trudged through (at 28 years old, I figured I could take it). The family is killed right off the bat by the man Jack (from the order of the Jacks of All Trades) and the main character, a toddler of just over a year at the time, manages to escape. He finds his way to the local graveyard and is adopted as part of a family of ghosts in a graveyard and from then on his name is Nobody – Bod, for short.
Bod grows up like any normal kid, learning his ABC’s by doing gravestone rubbings, taking classes from the local graveyard ghosts, and learning lessons from his guardian, Silas (who isn’t dead and isn’t alive, but is ‘in between’), and his alternate Mrs. Lupescu. He’s given “Freedom of the Graveyard,” sees “as the dead do” and learns how to fade (i.e. disappear), dreamwalk, and how to instill fear in people.
Wait? That’s not normal? Well, it’s normal for Bod.
If you’ve ever read the Lemony Snicket books, The Graveyard Book is very reminiscent of them – without the goofy language. Instead of a whole series of short novels, Bod has many adventures in this book – he goes to school, he meets the ‘Sleer’, he meets Scarlett, he meets Liza the Witch – and they all manage to tie together quite nicely for a slightly-expected ending.
My only disappointment was that Scarlett and her mom move back to Scotland, where they were originally from. The romantic in me wanted her to stay and for her and Bod to have more adventures – maybe in future books. I don’t think that Neil is planning on releasing more books in the series, which is okay because everything is resolved in the end (though he does leave a few ends hanging just slightly, which could work for a sequel). I was also sad that Bod eventually doesn’t see his graveyard family anymore, having grown up and all.
The illustrations throughout, by Dave McKean, are great, though sometimes I was left staring at them wondering how they are depicting the story at certain points. The illustrations aren’t distracting at all, and are quite lovely, but sometimes I wanted more of them – they really only appear at the beginning of each chapter for a few pages, and again at the end of the book.
I would recommend this to readers, young and old, who want something different, something that makes them smile in wonder and amazement, and something with enough mystery and fantasy for all.