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The Graveyard Book Paperback – September 28, 2010
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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 --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Though the book itself is definitely of the children’s genre, the tone of the book is that of a suspenseful, whimsical nightmare on the brink of adolescence. Told from a third person point of view, the voice of the book in that of a narrator. The opening pages of the story opens up into a grisly scene, outlining why, exactly, the book was targeted towards children older than the fifth grade. “The knife had done almost everything it was brought to do, and both the knife and the handle were wet.” (Gaiman, Pg 6.) A home invasion and triple murder sends a toddler child out into the night in search of adventure. The invader, the man Jack, tracks him to a cemetery, where the child has somehow slipped into the locked graveyard and stands upon a hill. The man Jack managed to find his way to the child, only to have him swept into the mist. Of course, we as readers know that this was really the ghostly inhabitants of the graveyard protecting the boy as requested by the weak spirit of his recently slain mother.
Gaiman has several themes in the story that work together to create a flawless plot that captivates his readers. Some of the more obvious ones are death, the
supernatural, fate versus free will and community. While the death and supernatural themes are easily explained in the cemetery, walking-talking-mythical creature moments, the others are actually just as obvious. It was predicted centuries prior to the time period the book was set in that a child who matched Bod’s description would destroy the Jack’s, a secret society of assassins and criminals. This makes me wonder if the events leading up to the resolution of the story, the removal of the man Jack from Bod’s life, were set in motion long before he was born, or if Bod himself truly did play a part in the entire situation. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and when Bod is given the freedom of the graveyard and taught the tricks of the ghosts (such as fading), the inhabitants pull together to raise and care for Bod as a community, ensuring his safety and education as best they could.
Bod’s story is a simple tale for children, with a twist of complicated ingenuity that leaves you wanting to know more about him. You find yourself heart-broken when Scarlett, his one and only human friend, leaves him in fear, stating that he is “less than human.” And then Silas tells him, after ensuring she forget everything that had happened, that “people want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.” (Gaiman. Page 288.)
There is a lesson to be learned as you run through the graveyard with the little orphaned boy, learning letters from the ancient tombstones and history from the oldest of ghosts, and as you sit in the classroom Bod finally attends as he desperately wants to be normal, only to find that he always attracts the strangest of attention. It is important to branch out of your comfort zone, to explore the world around you, and to learn as much as you can about that world. But it is just as important to remember
where your home and heart are, and to understand that sometimes there aren’t always happy endings, and some people just are not meant to be in your life. Neil Gaiman uses his literary prowess to spin a tale of fantasy and reality in a way that steals your heart, and the only true way to realize this is by reading the book. I recommend The Graveyard Book to anyone who wants a good adventure story, with an amazing plot as well.