The Graveyard Book: Our Favorite Fall Read

by Becky on November 8, 2013 · 1 comment

in Books

 Book Review of Middle Grade Novels - The Graveyard Book by Neil Guiman

Neil Gaiman may be the most un-derivative writer out there. Which is the highest compliment I could give him. I LOVE stories that feel completely original, and The Graveyard Book, a Newbery Medal winner illustrated by Dave McKean, is like no other scary tale out there.

When a toddler suddenly finds himself in the local graveyard after the murder of his family, the resident ghosts decide to protect him from the mysterious figure hunting him, extending to him the “freedom of the graveyard,” a privilege rarely given to humans. Nobody Owens, or “Bod,” as the child is affectionately called by the ghosts with whom he shares the graveyard, leads an unusual existence, his childhood marked not only by the bizarre event that led him there but also by his relationships with some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever encountered in my (many) years of reading.

I read The Graveyard Book out loud to Goose last year, when we were in Spain. He was spellbound, the plot so riveting he scarcely moved when he was listening. Plus, I got to try on all kinds of fabulous (and no doubt poorly rendered) accents, since the various ghosts have totally distinct personalities and hail from various centuries and walks of life. There’s nothing more appealing to a frustrated theater actress than having a book to read out loud to a captive audience eager for a splashy performance. In fact, this book could as soon be acted as read, the narrative so vividly theatrical that you feel you’re watching a play or a movie.

Gaiman ratchets up the suspense by bringing back Jack, the shadowy figure who murdered Bod’s family. You knew he was going to return, and now you want to know why. And the revelations that take place as the reader comes to understand Jack’s identity and purpose are truly startling. I figured Jack merely had a score to settle. But it’s more than that. Much more. And Bod’s real identity holds the key.

This book is a darkly humorous fairy tale, a wildly suspenseful mystery, a cache of the most brilliant secondary characters not part of the Harry Potter series, and an unexpected delight for fans of the graphic novel. Lastly, I love the way Gaiman strikes that fascinating balance between what it means to be monstrous and what it means to be human. Scare yourself up a batch of popcorn and sit down with your favorite listener. And by all means, read this book out loud!

Julie Nelson December 4, 2013 at 8:50 am

Hey Becky,
We are like conjoined twins, separated, but never far in spirit. I drank up your posts (lots, but didn’t have time for all of them–some other day) and LOVED LOVED LOVED them. So many resonated with me. Like the one about connecting with a teenage son, the brilliance of colorful shutters in France, or in Germany, while the guys go to the torture museum (which, BTW, we’ll be visiting next April), you ooh and aah over the architecture. In Europe, I do the same thing: “Oh my gosh. Look at that. Oh my gosh!.” Not very intelligent sounding, but sometimes there are no words for what you see. So I grunt a lot.
So glad to run into you after 25+ years at Lindsay’s baby shower. Welcome back to the US and hope your new home is wonderful. Contact me any time. Love, Julie (Hermana Davis) now Nelson

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