Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Graveyard Book

Gaiman, Neil. Ills. Dave McKean. The Graveyard Book. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.
[Book cover credit:]

A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (2008)
Cybils Award, Fantasy and Science Fiction - Elementary/Middle Grade (2008)
ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2009)
British Fantasy Award Nominee - August Derleth Fantasy Award (2009)
Hugo, Novel (2009)
Newberry Medal (2009)
World Fantasy Award Nominee, Novel (2009)
and more...

You might think - and if you did, you would be right - that Mr. Owens should not have taken on so at seeing a ghost, given that Mr. and Mrs. Owens were themselves dead and had been for a few hundred years now, and given that the entirety of their social life, or very nearly, was spent with those who were also dead. But there was a difference between the folk of the graveyard and this: a raw, flickering, startling shape the grey color of television static, all panic and naked emotion which flooded the Owenses as if it was their own. Three figures, two large, one smaller, but only one of them was in focus, was more than an outline or a shimmer. And the figure said, My baby! He is trying to harm my baby!

And so Mr. and Mrs. Owens take it upon themselves to raise a living baby and protect him from the man Jack who murdered the rest of his family. Nobody Owens, as he is renamed, or Bod, as he comes to be known, grows up in the graveyard, learning things like how to Fade, Haunt, and Dreamwalk with ghosts and other non-living creatures for company.

But the man Jack is still looking for him. Bod should have died with the rest of his family, and the man Jack wants to make sure that he does.

I hadn't been putting off reading this book, per se, but it certainly was never at the top of my reading list, even though I've been wanting to read it since it came out. Then I read the Newberry acceptance speech Gaiman gave at the ALA conference. (It is available in the late summer issues of both Horn Book and Children and Libraries.) I don't know how, but Ihad forgotten just how fun Gaiman's writing is to read. He says in his speech that this book took him twenty years to write. It shows. I'm sure there are faults to be found in The Graveyard Book, as there are in any book, but I didn't find any.

For being set in a graveyard and opening with a triple murder, this book is a lighthearted story. It is told rather episodically, to span Bod's life from infancy to when he is 15 years old. As so much of his life is unchangeable, only the exciting bits need to be shared, such as his first living friend and a tutor who is also a Hound of God. Each chapter could almost be its own short story, with shared characters between them. Because of this, and because the language is just begging for it, The Graveyard Book would make for a wonderful read aloud, spread across weeks in a classroom, library, or bedtime setting.

This was a quick and enjoyable read. It's not a laugh-out-loud book, but it's funny in places. It's also really sad in places and really happy in others. I liked it a lot.

Book source: Philly Free Library

1 comment:

Laughing Stars said...

This sounds quite interesting and unique. Terrific review!