Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Graveyard Book

Gaiman, N. (2008). The Graveyard Book. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Plot Summary:
During the tragic demise of his parents and sister at the hands of a knife-wielding man, a toddler wanders out of his home while the whole ordeal is taking place and up the street to the nearby graveyard. This is very unfortunate for the murderer , whose order was to kill the entire family. The murderer follows the scent of the boy to the graveyard where the baby's mother's spirit appeals to a ghost woman and begs her to take care of her son. The ghosts in the graveyard protect the baby from the murderer and vow to raise him as their own, giving him the Freedom of the Graveyard. The Owens, the ghosts who act as his parents, name the boy Nobody Owens, calling him Bod for short. Bod is raised by ghosts in the graveyard, learning the tricks of the ghosts, and rarely leaving to walk among the living. He learns how to read and write from ghosts who were teachers when they were alive, learns the ways of the dead from a werewolf, and about the fickleness of girls from a witch. Unfortunately, the secret society who ordered Bod's family murdered has not forgotten about the boy and returns to finish the job. It is up to Bod all he has learned to protect himself from these evil men.

This is such a well crafted story, so rich with imagination. Using the graveyard as an unlikely setting of a boy's upbringing is unique and pleasantly spooky. It is a wonderfully bizarre and unusual coming of age story, not unlike the author's inspiration, The Jungle Book. Gaiman develops his characters well, and provides lovely descriptions of the graveyard. There are many little details that add to the fun of this book, such as the inscriptions of each tombstone being provided after the introduction of each new ghost into the story. I thought that was a very clever touch. I was much more interested in Bod's life in the graveyard and learning about each of the ghosts and what they did in life and what they taught Bod, rather than the plot itself. The plot was great, but I was content with reading all of the little vignettes about Bod's time in the graveyard. The dark and misty quality of the illustrations add to the spookiness of the story.

fantasy, horror

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Similar Books:

2009 Newbery Medal Award
2009 Hugo Award
2010 Carnegie Medal
Locus Award

family, friends, loss, death, self-identity

Character Names/Descriptions:
Nobody Owens (Bod): family is killed when he is a baby; raised by the ghosts in the graveyard and given the Freedom of the Graveyard; lives in the graveyard until he is fifteen years-old; a secret society is trying to murder him
Silas: Bod's guardian; he is able to walk among the dead and the living so he can bring food and things from outside the graveyard to Bod; member of the Honour Guard
The Owens: ghost husband and wife who adopt Bod and raise him as their son
Scarlett: young living girl who plays with Bod in the cemetery when she was young and then makes his acquaintance again when they are older; befriends Mr. Frost; introduces Bod to Mr. Frost
Liza Hempstock: witch living in the graveyard; helps Bod with his fading; can leave the graveyard because she is buried just outside of it in unconsecrated ground
Nick Farthing and Maureen Quilling (Mo): living kids in Bod's town; bullies at the school Bod briefly attends; Bod haunts them
Jack Frost: murdered Bod's family; disguises himself as a historian; part of the secret society, the brotherhood of the Jacks of All Trades

A boy is raised by a graveyard after his family is murdered. The graveyard comes together to protect the boy from the evil that is still after him.

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