Hope your Memorial Day weekend has been fun. We are in full blown summer over here and I’m not sure if I’m ready for it! Time to get a pool pass 😉
Today I am excited to share a review on The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I have not been finishing books very quickly this month. So I’m actually not that far behind on posting my reviews. I finished this novel while visiting family earlier this month and it was utterly unique.
This was my first Gaiman novel and what a way to start! Wow, I have never read anything quite like this book. I must admit I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of this story. I was worried it would be too scary, too intense. But Gaiman creates a masterful story from the view of a young boy–and that makes it all magical and beautiful.
- Did you know that Gaiman took his inspiration for this story from The Jungle Book? I think that is so cool and super fascinating. However, the connections are very subtly done. I didn’t really connect the two stories until nearly the end of the novel.
- My first exposure to Gaiman was the movie adaptation of Coraline which is eerie and a bit creepy (those button eyes–yikes!) I would say that made me wary to read this book but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
- This would be a fascinating movie–if it was done right. There’s a fine line between fascinating and freaky.
- The illustrations are an unusual and intriguing addition to the story. They make it come to life a bit more.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman chronicles the coming of age story of Bod, a living boy raised by ghosts. Goodreads summarizes, “After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family… ”
“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”
“People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.”
The Graveyard Book
The element that clearly sets this book apart is it’s unlikely setting–a graveyard. I wasn’t sure if he could pull this off because I think there is a fine line here between intriguing and terrifying. Plus, this is a book for children and I had to raise my eyebrow at the prospect of its setting. But Gaiman proved why more children’s books should adopt unexpected locales. He takes the unknown, uncomfortable aspects of a graveyard and turns it into a home. Instead of it being scary and lonely, the graveyard becomes a place of refuge, connection and safety. I will never look at a graveyard the same way again.
The characters in this book are phenomenal. The description of each personality is subtle and striking. While many of the characters are dead or nonhuman, they feel personable and familiar. I love watching Bod grow and learn about the world–both living and dead–around him. I wanted him to succeed from the first moment we meet him toddling towards the graveyard. I found Silas fascinating in his mystery and complexity. Miss Lupescu is endearing because she sacrifices for honor–and for Bod. Liza makes me laugh and want to be a witch myself. I loved the simple love of the Owens for their son. And the man Jack is a deliciously unnerving villain. As each character was introduced, I wanted to hear even more about them. We seem to only glimpse the depth of many of these characters.
I was blown away by Gaiman’s masterful storytelling and clever descriptions. This is a book for children but it’s not limited to that audience. The story is exciting and the details are fun to uncover. For me, it was a bit scary to start, but got more and more exciting as the plot continued. Several chapters offer short vignettes about Bod’s life from his encounter with ghouls, attending public school, dancing the Macabray, finding a headstone for a witch, and learning from Silas. The way Gaiman incorporated different headstones, various dead characters, and the Jacks of all trades was so neat. You never quite know what to expect on the next page. I love a book that surprises me with clever twists and details. And Gaiman is one of the best.
“Face your life
Leave no path untaken.”
The Graveyard Book
All this being said, there are scary moments. The beginning murder sequence is very intense–too intense for young children in my opinion. I would encourage older kids to read this. And the climactic battle is also rather scary. But overall, the intensity is more in a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings way so it wasn’t too much for me. (And I’d recommend Harry Potter to older kids as well.) This book reminds me a bit of Harry Potter (which is always a good thing). We are getting the action from Bod’s character so it isn’t as scary as it could be. Also, I love the classic good versus evil battle that takes place.
The ending is satisfying while allowing the readers imaginations to continue the story themselves. Without giving too much away, I will say I am glad that good triumphs over evil. But I was sad for Bod in those he lost. Having him move forward into a new part of his life closes the story rather well. It was at the end that I caught the allusions to The Jungle Book more clearly.
Overall, what a novel! A very well deserved Newbery winner! A book about coming of age, understanding who you are, what is truth, and how to find your purpose. I highly recommend this one!
What did you think of The Graveyard Book?
What are your favorite Gaiman novels?
This is my 10th Newbery Medal book finished as part of my Newbery Challenge
to read all 100 Newbery Medal winners by the end of 2022,
the year the 100th winner is announced!