Gailman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2008. ISBN 978-0-
The main character Nobody Owens, known as Bod is a human boy. The story begins when Bod's entire family is murdered by a man named Jack. Nobody escapes this brutal attack by crawling to a graveyard at the top of the hill for safety. Bod is protected by the family of spirits in this graveyard. Bod is safe as long as he remains inside the graveyard gates. He has a guardian and mentor named Silas who goes between the living and the dead to bring him food and clothes. Bod grows from a toddler through adolescence by learning from the many spirits in the graveyard. They become his friends and teachers. The spirits teach him a lot about history and also how to fade. He makes a friend with a witch named Liza in the Potter's field, and also a human friend who visits the graveyard named Scarlett. He ventures out of the graveyard into the human world to attend school and encounters bullies. Every time he leaves the graveyard he is in danger of being killed by Jack. The story ends when it is safe for Bod to leave the graveyard to see the world and enter the world of the living.
This book is a recent John Newbery Medal winner in 2009. This is a fantasy novel dealing with the supernatural. This story will appeal to boys and girls who would like to read a ghost story. The plot is fast paced and the opening scene is quick and sets the theme of self vs. another. The villain is a person named Jack. Bod's archetype is an orphaned protagonist who gets himself in trouble, but learns from his mistakes. The setting of this story is very important. Even though the story is told in a graveyard there is a strong theme of community and family. The protagonist learns the meaning of friendship from humans and spirits. The book is full of very rich vocabulary. The book is recommended for children ten and up, but a ten year old may need support with the vocabulary. The book is not all dark. It is filled with humor and wit. The author's style uses humor and suspense as the tone of this book. There are a few black and white illustrations by Dave McKean that do add to the story.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
The story is filled with supernatural and terrifying at times. A good story develops and you do not want to put the book down. Gaiman is a great visual writer. You picture a child in a dark, cold graveyard, but he is happy with many friends.
Diana Wynne Jones states that "this is the best book Neil Gaiman has ever written. He has managed to combine fascinating, friendly, frightening and fearsome in one fantasy. He pulled it off magnificently. It is perfect for Halloween and any other time of the year."
The Horn book states it is "lucid, evocative prose and dark fairy-tale motifs imbue the story with a dreamlike quality."
ALA Booklist states "this is an utterly captivating tale that is cleverly told through and entertaining cast of ghostly characters."
Toronto Star states "there are a great many books out there about spooks, vampires, and ghouls. But Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is the one to pick- a tale of hauntings and huntings that's full of kindness and wit, humor and horror. Read aloud, it should make a young audience sit up and take notice."
Holly Black states that this book is "endlessly inventive, masterfully told, and, like Bod himself, too clever to fit into only one place. This is a book for everyone. You will love it to death."
San Francisco Chronicle states that "Bod's coming-of-age has its moments of wonder, terror, and tenderness, and Gaiman hits exactly the right notes every time."