Let’s get right to it.
Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. HarperCollins. 2008. 312 p. 0060530928.
The Graveyard Book tells the story of a boy named Nobody Owens, or Bod, who is raised in a graveyard by ghosts. After the grisly murder of his entire family, he wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Other than that, Bod is a normal boy. Or at least, he would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. And in this graveyard, there are dangers and adventures for Bod. If Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from a man named Jack—who killed Bod’s family.
So this was my first Neil Gaiman novel (I know, for those of you who are die-hard fans, I’m sorry) but I’m very glad it was. For years I’ve heard that Mr. Gaiman’s works were amazing, filled with just the right feeling of horror and terror while having his own humorous, whimsical spin to it. So I was excited to start this and was sad to finish it. Just from the one sentence plot that I read: a boy is raised in a graveyard by ghosts, this book sold me. I didn’t know what to expect honestly since I’m not that big of a fan of the fantasy genre but Gaiman makes the fantasy genre his own genre entirely. If you think about it, this is a children’s novel yet it opens with a man who kills Bod’s entire family. Way to open up a children’s novel, right? But it’s this immediate action that makes the reader interested even if you’re someone who’s not into the fantasy genre. It’s something that Gaiman writes in such a chilling tone, you want to hide under the covers and pray that the hash-slinging-slasher isn’t out to get you (if you got this reference, you’re awesome). Then, as Bod meets all these other fantastical creatures (if you thought that Harry Potter had a bunch of magical creatures, so does The Graveyard Book). I mean, the whole concept might be a stretch to accept if you’re not into this kind of stuff but the way Mr. Gaiman writes, it just sinks you into the story.
As this is a children’s novel, I definitely would teach this to my class. I think it would be really fun to have the kids draw what the cemetery looks like in their minds. And what each of the characters look like. We can talk about Jack’s motivations and why he wants to kill Bod or why he even killed Bod’s family in the first place. As one reader on goodreads put it: “Neil Gaiman has a real knack for the imaginative combination of sweet and creepy elements together with the bittersweet ending, creating a unique and unforgettable story which appeals both to children and adults” and this is exactly why I would teach this book to my students.
I hope you all enjoyed this book review. The next book review will be on… Death of a Superhero by Anthony McCarten!