The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
After Bod’s family was brutally murdered the kindly Owens family adopted him. They couldn’t be more perfect foster parents…except that they have been dead for nearly two hundred and fifty years. Bod (short for “Nobody” since the Owenses have no idea what his parents named him) is given Freedom of the Graveyard, which allows him to stay and be raised amongst tombstones and the departed. As he grows older, the ghosts begin teaching him history and the customs from their own eras, as well as the skills of the dead, such as Dreamwalking, Fading and Fear. His guardian, Silas, brings him food and clothing, so that Bod will never need to leave the safety of the cemetery. But the more he learns about the world beyond the graveyard, the more curious he becomes. Bod wants to go to school and be amongst other living people, but as long as his family’s killer is still lurking Outside it isn’t safe for him to leave.
The day a child realizes the nature of death and its implications changes them forever. A little piece of innocence is lost and gone, and a little shadow is cast as he realizes that someday he, too, will cease to be. But Bod is the opposite; all his life he has known death and the afterlife so for him, there is no mystery. Strike that. For Bod, the mystery is LIFE. Life holds to him the same wonder and confusion that death has for the rest of us, and seeing his struggle from the ‘other side of the veil’ so to speak makes this a wonderful and fascinating book.
At times the book is scary, especially when one considers it’s written for children. There’s a triple-murder on the second page. Bod lives under the shadowy threat that someone, somewhere wants to kill him. Ghouls, vampires and werewolves all have their roles to play. And, well, death can be scary! But the graveyard is such a charming little world, populated with folk from a variety of backgrounds and times. It’s sweet, with tender moments such as when Bod braves the Outside world because he wants to buy a headstone for an unhappy ghost’s unmarked grave. There is an aura of melancholy throughout the book, but it’s never depressing.
If you’re a Neil Gaiman fan, you will enjoy this book. I think it is one of his best. Kids will like the adventures that Bod has and identify with his fears and childhood troubles. But I do think that almost everyone would enjoy this book.
Subterranean Press will be releasing a special limited edition of The Graveyard Book that looks SUPER-AWESOME. I totally wish I could get it. Only 500 copies will be printed, at the low low price of only $250 each. Sigh.