Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Graveyard Book

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2008

The boy’s family was murdered when he was about eighteen months old. Just big enough to totter around, he wandered out of the house and up the hill into the nearby graveyard while the killer searched around for him. There he is taken in by unlikely pair named Mr. and Mrs. Owens, who were never able to have children. The only problem is that they’ve been dead for about two hundred years. The graveyard residents aren’t sure what to do with the boy, who has no name but what the Owens gave him, so they give him the Freedom of the Graveyard and name him Nobody.

Nobody Owens grows up very differently than most children. All of his best friends are dead. In fact, everyone he associates with has been dead since Victoria was Queen. His guardian is a vampire named Silas. He learns his letters and numbers from the fellow residents of his graveyard, and he thinks nothing of sleeping in a tomb every night. It’s all he’s ever known. The outside world isn’t safe for Nobody Owens, yet as he grows he dreams of meeting the living. But it isn’t safe, he’s told. The Man Jack is still looking for him.

And so Nobody Owens’ story is that of most people: that of self discovery. Nobody just does it better than everyone else, perhaps because Death isn’t something that frightens him. He lives in the world, and is more aware of his world, than anyone else because he learned from the dead that life is your chance to make your mark on the world, to go out and do what you can, to be who you can and to make the most of every moment.

We only follow Nobody for about thirteen years of his life, but he does more in those thirteen than most people accomplish in fifty, and for that he is a truly remarkable individual. But what is most charming about Nobody is his sweet naïveté. He can discuss for hours the uses of Ghoul Gates or who the Lady on the Grey is, but something as simple as “P is for Pig” delights him. He’ll anger fellow graveyard residents to borrow the books they have or find the deepest of the Tombs and confront those who live there. It’s Nobody’s character, delightful in al its angles, that kept me reading. And when it was over I wanted more but loved that that was all there was written down about Nobody. Gaiman’s ability to leave some adventures open to the reader’s imagination only adds to the joy his books bring.

The Graveyard book is told from third person limited, following Nobody Owens on his adventures.

My Thoughts:
This book was another one nominated by Jean-Luc, and it didn’t disappoint. At first I was reminded quite a lot of Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett, but as the story progressed I found this was due only to the location at which the story takes place and the fact that many of the main characters are deceased. I almost cried at the end, because I was so happy for Bod, but so sad that it was over. I think it’s perhaps the best book I’ve read by Neil Gaiman, a prolific author with many wonderful works to his credit. I would recommend it to anyone and was a delight to read.

Favorite Scene:
My favorite scene was when Bod confronted the Sleer with Scarlett in tow. Fascinating, creepy, exciting and thought provoking. But then, I've always been fascinated with the Celts. The chapter titled “The Witch” was also great.

Who this book is best for:
Listed as suitable for 9-12 year olds on Amazon, I would disagree. I would keep this for kids 11 years or up, despite the easy writing style and age of the main character, because of what goes on during the story’s climax. 9 may be a little too young to deal with some of the themes explored in The Graveyard Book. However, it has won the Newbery Medal and completely deserved it.

Violence: 3 of 5 for the creepy Sleer and the Jacks of All Trades.

Stars: 5 of 5

No comments: