Tuesday, March 29, 2011

YAL Blog - "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

I suppose it's fitting that I do this review today, considering the news that came up yesterday.  Onwards!

Title: The Graveyard Book

Author: Neil Gaiman

ISBN: 9780060530945

Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers

Date of Publication:  October 1st 2008

Reading Level: 7th grade and up

Salt Lake County Library –
Dead -- Juvenile fiction.             
Supernatural -- Juvenile fiction.
Cemeteries -- Juvenile fiction.

My additions –
Death and dying
Family relationships

Synopsis:  (from Goodreads) –
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.

Awards: Lots! (from Goodreads) -
Hugo Award for Best Novel (2009)
Newbery Medal (2009)
Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel (2009)
British Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
Cybils Award for Middle Grade Fantasy & Science Fiction (2008)
Audie Award Nominee for Thriller/Suspense (2009)
An ALA Notable Children's Book for Middle Readers (2009)
ALA Teens' Top Ten (2009)
Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2009)
Indies Choice Book Award for Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book (Fiction): (2009)
Carnegie Medal (2009)

Comments: I’ve been told for a long time that I ought to pick up Neil Gaiman because I would enjoy it.  Sadly, other things came up for me to read, so poor Neil got put on the backburner.  However, when the news came that Neil Gaiman would be writing an episode of the upcoming season of “Doctor Who," I knew I had to pick up something of his and read it.  The February Scholastic catalog came to my desk at school and it had “The Graveyard Book” listed for sale, I saw that this had won the Newbery Award, so I ordered it for the library and read the book.  And yes, I found that I do enjoy Neil Gaiman.

Nobody “Bod” Owens is a young boy whose family’s was killed when he was a baby.  He somehow wanders into a graveyard and is more or less adopted by the ghosts that live in the graveyard.  He is raised in the ghosts’ culture and is very at home there.  It’s the world of the living that presents the most perils to him.  What I found the most interesting is that this is a story where ghosts and ghouls are no threat to the living protagonist.  The ghosts are very much Bod’s family and he is the most comfortable there.  My favorite is the conversation of whether or not to send Bod to a regular school in the world of the living – it’s just like a conversation that any child’s parents would have over which school to send their child to.  I had to remind myself constantly that these people are ghosts and it added a whole new dimension of humor to the story.  I also think that a boy like Bod wouldn’t be so afraid of death and I wonder if that is a theme of the story as well – that there is nothing to be scared of in death or dying.  Depending on the personality of a child and how their parents feel about it, this could be a good story to read in a time of death.

It took me a while to realize how the format of the book worked – this book is written much like “The Jungle Book” in that each chapter is a short story about Bod and his adventures in the graveyard.  The ghosts are so much fun to read – they each have their own personalities that reflect how they were in life and they aren’t the old recycled ghost tropes that have been used in the past.  Gaiman writes his characters so vividly – Mrs. Owens is such a lovely mother figure and Mr. Pennyworth is his kindly, if a little doddering, teacher.  I love all the little ghostly details in the narrative like the parentheticals that mention the epitaphs on the gravestones of the different characters (Example, Bod’s grammar and composition teacher has the epitaph - “Miss Letitia Borrows, Who Did No harm to No Man all the Dais of Her Life. Reader, Can You Say Lykewise?”)

I’m really glad I came across this book and I’ll be looking for other works by Neil Gaiman in the future.

Up Next: “Except the Queen” by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder;

On Deck: “Gregor the Overlander” by Suzanne Collins; “Something Happened” by Greg Logsted

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