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The Graveyard Book Hardcover – September 30, 2008
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From School Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
The story of Nobody Owens--his adopted name, as this is a wee human child spared the murderous spree of a dreadful assasin, then taken in by a cemetery full of ghosts from assorted centuries, and guarded by them because the assasin has not given up the quest to kill him--is unputdownable. Every adventure as he grows from toddler to teenager mixes wonders and frights and humor. It's just such fun to see him learn ghostly ways and interact with humans and nonhumans.
There's so much to recommend in the story (and my fellow reviewers cover plenty, so I need not repeat it), but I agree that the trip into the world of the ghouls was a wild ride. I have to give props to Gaiman for the total magic that he infused into the chapter on the Danse Macabre. It would have been a terrific short story--that strange, strange day--but it worked wonderfully in the tale, showing us clearly a thing or two about Nobody and his mysterious, powerful Guardian, Silas. (His particular fantasy niche, while never said specifically in so many words is , nevertheless, no great riddle.)
The near-end brings Nobody into confrontation with the horrible killer, and Nobody comes into his own, but it costs him. It's a well-crafted ending that is inevitable given all Nobody's learned as the story progressed. If you don't figure it out pretty well in advance, you werent' paying attention.
The bittersweet--but natural and fitting-- ending made me sad as I closed the book. It feels complete, yes, but I so want to see more written on Nobody Owens. I have no idea if Mr. Gaiman has planned another or several more novels with this character, but I can say that I would very much like to read more on Nobody and Silas.
I should add that there are illustrations scattered throughout, however, I'm not a particular fan of all the included art. I normally really enjoy McKean's partnering with Mr. Gaiman, but several of the illustrations just left me unimpressed. Though, honestly, I was so wrapped up in the tale, I didn't give them that much of a lingering look. So, the fault may lie more with my impatience to read.
A wonderful story. If you enjoyed the award-winning CORALINE, you're in for a treat. This one's better.
Thanks, Mr. G.
UPDATE Jan 26, 2009: This book just won Gaiman the prestigious Newbery Medal!
It starts with three murders. There were supposed to be four. The man Jack was one of the best, maybe THE best, and how hard is it to kill a toddler anyway? But on that particular night the little boy went for a midnight toddle out the front door while the murderer was busy and straight into the nearby graveyard. Saved and protected by the denizens of that particular abode (the ghosts and the far more corporeal if mysterious Silas), the little boy is called Bod, short for Nobody because no one knows his name. As he grows older, Bod learns the secrets of the graveyard, though he has to be careful. The man (or is it "men"?) who killed his family could come back for him. Best to stay quiet and out of sight. Yet as Bod grows older it becomes clear that hiding may not be the best way to confront his enemies. And what's more, Bod must come to grips with what it means to grow up.
Can I level with you? You know Coraline? Mr. Gaiman's previous foray into middle grade children's literature. Come close now, I don't want to speak too loudly. Uh... I didn't much care for it. WAIT! Come back, come back, I didn't mean it! Well, maybe I did a tad. It was a nice book. A sufficient story. But it was very much (new category alert) an adult-author-to-children's-author-first-timer-title. Gaiman appeared to be finding his sealegs with Coraline. He took the old Alice in Wonderland trope which adult authors naturally gravitate to on their first tries (see: Un Lun Dun,Summerland,The King in the Window, etc.). Throw in some rats, bees, and buttons, and voila! Instant success. But Coraline for all its readability and charm didn't get me here [thumps chest:]. I didn't feel emotionally close to the material. Now why it should be that I'd feel closer emotionally to a book filled with a plethora of ghosts, ghouls, night-gaunts, and Hounds of God, I can only chalk up to The Graveyard Book's strong vision.
My husband likes to say that the whole reason Buffy the Vampire Slayer worked as a television show was that it was a natural metaphor for the high school (and eventually college) experience. Likewise, The Graveyard Book has this strong,strange, wonderful metaphor about kids growing up, learning about the wider world, and exploring beyond the safe boundaries of their homes. There's so much you can read into this book. I mean, aren't all adults just ghosts to kids anyway? Those funny talking people whose time has passed but that may provide some shelter and wisdom against the wider, crueler world. Plus Mr. Gaiman also includes characters in Bod's world that kids will wish they had in their own. Silas, a man who may be a vampire (though the word is never said) is every child's fantasy; A mysterious/magical guardian/friend who will tell you the truth when your parents will not.
One thing I particularly liked about the book was the fact that Bod makes quite a few careless or thoughtless mistakes and yet you don't feel particularly inclined to throttle him because of them. Too often in a work of fiction a person isn't properly put into the head of their protagonist. So when that character walks off and does something stupid there's the sense (sometimes faint, sometimes not) that they deserved it and you're not going to stick around and read about somebody that dumb, are you? But even when Bod is at his most intolerable, his most childishly selfish and single-minded, you can understand and sympathize with him. Bod is no brat, a fact that implies right there that he is someone worth rooting for. We see our own young selves in Bod, and we root for him as a result. And as Bod reaches each stage in his growth, he encounters experiences and personalities that help him to reach maturity. That's a lot to put on the plate of a l'il ole fantasy novel, particularly one that's appropriate for younger kids.
And it is appropriate too. Don't let the fact that the first sentence in the book ("There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife") put you off. The murder of Bod's family is swift, immediate, and off-screen. What remains is just a great fantasy novel that has the potential to appeal to both boy and girl readers. Kid wants a ghost story? Check. Kid wants a fantasy novel set in another world appropriate for Harry Potter fans? Check. Kid wants a "good book". That's my favorite request. When the eleven-year-old comes up to my desk and begs for "a good book" I can just show them the cover and the title of this puppy and feel zero guilt when their little eyes light up. A good book it is.
I guess that if I have any objections at all to the title it has something to do with the villains. They're a bit sketchy, which I suppose is the point, but we live in an era where children's fantasy novels spend oodles of time defining their antagonists' motivations and histories. Gaiman's more interested in his hero, which is natural, but the villains' raison d'être is just a bit too vague for the average reader. Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that Bod's family is slaughtered at the start of this tale you wouldn't necessarily know whether or not to believe that these people are as nasty as we've been told.
That said the book's a peach. I once heard someone postulate that maybe Neil Gaiman wrote it just so that he could play with the sentence "It takes a graveyard to raise a child." Unlikely. Fun, but unlikely. I mean, he does make a casual allusion that isn't far off from that phrase, but he never goes whole hog. This book doesn't feel like it was written to back up a joke. It feels like a book written by a parent with children growing up and moving out. It's a title that tips its hat to kids making their way in the world, their pasts behind them, their futures unknown. This is not yet another silly little fantasy novel, but something with weight and depth. The fact that it just happens to be loads of fun to boot is simply a nice bonus. Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've read it before.Read more
I was engulfed in the story from the time I first picked it up. Could barely put it down until I was done.Read more