In The Graveyard Book
, Neil Gaiman has created a charming allegory of childhood. Although the book opens with a scary scene--a family is stabbed to death by "a man named Jack” --the story quickly moves into more child-friendly storytelling. The sole survivor of the attack--an 18-month-old baby--escapes his crib and his house, and toddles to a nearby graveyard. Quickly recognizing that the baby is orphaned, the graveyard's ghostly residents adopt him, name him Nobody ("Bod"), and allow him to live in their tomb. Taking inspiration from Kipling’s The Jungle Book
, Gaiman describes how the toddler navigates among the headstones, asking a lot of questions and picking up the tricks of the living and the dead. In serial-like episodes, the story follows Bod's progress as he grows from baby to teen, learning life’s lessons amid a cadre of the long-dead, ghouls, witches, intermittent human interlopers. A pallid, nocturnal guardian named Silas ensures that Bod receives food, books, and anything else he might need from the human world. Whenever the boy strays from his usual play among the headstones, he finds new dangers, learns his limitations and strengths, and acquires the skills he needs to survive within the confines of the graveyard and in wider world beyond. (ages 10 and up) -–Heidi Broadhead
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5–8—"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." So begins the tale of Nobody Owens, a child raised in a graveyard by ghosts. The man Jack, a member of an elite and despicable organization, is sent to slit the throats of an entire family. As he prepares to finish off the last and most important family member, he is enraged to discover that the baby boy has eluded him by climbing from his crib and going out the door. The youngster toddles to a nearby graveyard, where the ghostly inhabitants take him in. Little Nobody (Bod) flourishes in the graveyard, a place alive with adventure and mystery. But he longs to enter the world of the living, a place where danger, and the man Jack, await. What a wicked delight to hear this inventive, sinister story (HarperCollins, 2008) read by multi-talented author Neil Gaiman. His voice ranges from silky to gravelly and gruff to sharp-edged. Those who enjoyed Gaiman's Coraline
(HarperCollins, 2002) will be eager to hear his inspired reading of this novel. Winner of the 2009 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Produciton, This captivating production makes the story accessible to younger students as well as reluctant readers.—Lisa Hubler, Memorial Junior High School, South Euclid, OH
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