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The Graveyard Book Hardcover – September 30, 2008
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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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
Grade 5–8—Somewhere in contemporary Britain, "the man Jack" uses his razor-sharp knife to murder a family, but the youngest, a toddler, slips away. The boy ends up in a graveyard, where the ghostly inhabitants adopt him to keep him safe. Nobody Owens, so named because he "looks like nobody but himself," grows up among a multigenerational cast of characters from different historical periods that includes matronly Mistress Owens; ancient Roman Caius Pompeius; an opinionated young witch; a melodramatic hack poet; and Bod's beloved mentor and guardian, Silas, who is neither living nor dead and has secrets of his own. As he grows up, Bod has a series of adventures, both in and out of the graveyard, and the threat of the man Jack who continues to hunt for him is ever present. Bod's love for his graveyard family and vice versa provide the emotional center, amid suspense, spot-on humor, and delightful scene-setting. The child Bod's behavior is occasionally too precocious to be believed, and a series of puns on the name Jack render the villain a bit less frightening than he should be, though only momentarily. Aside from these small flaws, however, Gaiman has created a rich, surprising, and sometimes disturbing tale of dreams, ghouls, murderers, trickery, and family.—Megan Honig, New York Public Library
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Gaiman spins the tale of Nobody Owens, a child who escaped the mysterious murder of his birth family and is taken in by none other than the ghosts at the local graveyard. Under the watchful eye of his new, ghostly parents and an otherworldly guardian named Silas, tiny "Bod," as he comes to be known, makes the land within the graveyard his own.
But as he grows, questions arise: why isn't Bod allowed to leave the graveyard? Will the one human girl he met as a small child ever return to visit? Who is searching for this innocent boy, and why does Silas leave him, for weeks at a time, under the watchful eye of taciturn Miss Lupescu? Who - or WHAT - lives deep within the bowels of darkest, most forbidding hillside at the edge of the graveyard?
The complicated answers to all of this and much more Gaiman weaves together into a beautiful, terrifying blanket, and in so doing, he shows his readers that it is only the most porous (and important) of curtains that separates life and death, that magic still exists, and that love cannot be limited by any boundaries, no matter how impenetrable they may seem. Truly, a book for all ages. An instant classic.
This book is a retelling of the famous Jungle Books by Kipling, and I enjoyed figuring out who the matching characters were supposed to be (obviously Nobody is Mowgli, and there is a Bagheera, a Baloo, an evil version of the Banderlog, etc.) But this book is much more. Neil Gaiman always writes such a literary and beautifully written version of a fairy tale, and this book is no exception.
The life of Nobody was exciting and fun to read, and the lurking horror of the man who killed his family, and who won't give up his mission to kill Bod is always in the background until the exciting climax (and obviously this guy is the Shere Khan character!).
As always, Gaiman's writing is compelling and holds your attention. Anyone who enjoys YA literature, or fantasy, or just a great book would enjoy this!
Any book that opens with the murder of three people is sure to entice any reader who is into things a little macabre. The Graveyard Book is no exception to this concept. For that matter, anyone familiar with some of Gaiman’s other works for younger audiences (Coraline, Stardust) shouldn’t be surprised at the darker material contained within.
An interesting connection that I didn’t make until I was listening to the author himself read an essay he wrote as a backmatter piece for the audiobook version I listened to is that, at its core, The Graveyard Book is a reimagining of Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Only instead of being raised by wild animals, our protagonist is raised by the denizens of a graveyard, his adoptive parents being ghosts (instead of wolves) and his main instructor/guardian being a vampire (instead of a panther).
Even though the concept is borrowed from a previous work, the result is a completely unique story. One of the things that I loved the most was how Gaiman was able to get into Bod’s mind and motivations at various stages in live, ranging from infant to teenager. It truly felt as though we were able to get into his head and learn and grow along with Bod. Part of the reason this worked so well was that each chapter felt like a closed unique short story in and of itself. As each chapter/story is told at a different age for Bod, it really felt like the story was written more in an episodic nature, with an overarching storyline threading them together but a complete story within each chapter.
I really want to know more about Silas and Miss Lupesco and the Honor Guard that is only touched upon throughout the story. I could imagine a wonderful Gaimain-penned version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen starring these characters (or, hey, maybe Gaiman should run Universal’s new attempt at a Monster Universe series of films [one could hope]). Either way, I loved every aspect of this book and really hope Gaiman has more in the tank for this world in the future.
Well, the book literally starts with a triple murder. That being said, the dark nature of the book as set from the beginning is tempered repeatedly by the innocence of Bod learning of all the supernatural aspects of the graveyard and its inhabitants through the eyes of a growing child.
As I said above, Gaiman is known for “darker” material even with his books for young audiences. There are no bad words (only alluded to), extreme gore (again, death is an obvious common thread but not extreme violence), or sexual concerns at all. It’s all-ages appropriate within the context of the necessarily macabre nature of the setting and its characters.
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