The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman, HarperCollins Publishers, 2008, 337 pp
It is Sunday night and time for my weekly review of a children's or young adult book.
I have finally read The Graveyard Book, of which I have a signed copy. I got to stand right in front of Mr Gaiman while he signed it at Book Expo America here in LA in the spring of 2008, a very big happy moment for me. As readers of this blog know, I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan, though there are many of his books I have still the future pleasure of reading.
The Graveyard Book won just about every prize and award that a children's novel can win this past year, including the Newbery Medal and the Hugo Awards. I am happy for this author who brings such uniquely humanistic views to his writing.
The story begins with a scene of intense horror when almost an entire family is brutally murdered leaving only an 18 month old child alive. Eventually this plucky toddler makes his way to a nearby graveyard where he is adopted by a Mr and Mrs Owens, who are of course ghosts. He is named Bod, short for Nobody, and the entire community of spirits raises and protects Bod until he is old enough to make his way among the living. It takes a graveyard.
Soon enough we learn that the murderer is still after Bod, which casts a fearful shadow over the tale. Bod, like any child, doesn't always get his way; his days are filled with unusual obstacles and a form of schooling that makes Harry Potter's education seem tame; he loses his only living playmate when her family moves away. To top it all off, his chief protector is clearly a vampire and thus only available at night, except when he is away on mysterious wanderings.
When the day finally comes that Nobody Owens can go out into the world and experience Life, I challenge even the most cynical, hardhearted reader not to shed a tear.
(The Graveyard Book is available on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)