Monday, May 7, 2012

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book
By Neil Gaiman
Published by HarperCollins, 2010
312 pages (hardcover)

In this ingenious and captivating reimagining of Rudyard Kipling's classic adventure The Jungle Book, Neil Gaiman tells the unforgettable story of Nobody Owens, a living, breathing boy whose home is a graveyard, raised by a guardian who belongs neither to the mortal world nor the realm of the dead. Among the mausoleums and headstones of his home, Bod experiences things most mortals can barely imagine. But real, flesh-and-blood danger waits just outside the cemetery walls: the man who murdered the infant Bod's family will not rest until he finds Nobody Owens and finishes the job he began many years ago.

A #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of many international awards, including the Hugo Award for best novel and the Locus Award, The Graveyard Book is a glorious meditation on love, loss, survival, and sacrifice...and what it means to truly be alive. (from

I read this a few years ago right after it received the Newbery Award as a reward to myself. In a way, it reminded me of the days I spent with my Dad and/or friends wandering around the 100+ year old  cemetery that is WAY back in the woods behind my parents’ house. We would go back there and look at the names of the people who had died, when they died, and how old they were. There are lots of children who live back there eternally as well as quite a few people who died during the Civil War. While it is sad, it is also interesting to think about how these people lived –and died- so long before many people settled the area. These people all had stories to tell, lives to live, and loved ones to embrace. And then they ended up on top of a hill next to a cornfield.

Now The Graveyard Book is (deservingly so) a Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award (RCYRBA) nominee so I wanted to write up my thoughts.

First of all, it is a really fresh concept. I mean, a boy who lives in a graveyard and is taken care of by ghosts? I really think only Neil Gaiman could have come up with that. It’s a strange mix of life & death, love & loss, and hope & despair.

It is rare that I will read more about a book when I finish reading it. A book has to be extremely engaging and memorable for me to do research on my own. But The Graveyard Book inspired me to look up a bit more on the author and how this book came to be. While researching, I found out that this book actually started out as a bunch of short stories. This explains the sometimes disconnected and random twists & turns of the plotline. Throughout the book there were some situations that seemed to start and not be resolved and chapters that had no real connection with the main story of Bod and why he is living in a graveyard. The side-stories weren’t horribly confusing, but I was left puzzled and wondering how everything/everyone was connected at times. Gaiman’s writing, however, is just so that the creepy stories just seem to fit into the air of mystery that he has created for this book.

The Graveyard Book inspired my imagination and kind of made me want to roam around old cemeteries and look into the stories of those who live there. Kind of. It also gave me enough shivers and goose bumps that when visiting historical cemeteries in Boston I kept waiting for ghosts to pop up and tell me things I don’t really want to know.

You don’t have to love scary stories or creepy things to enjoy this book. The creativity and creepy-whimsical feeling of The Graveyard Book will at least make you appreciate this unique twist on old ghost stories.

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