The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Harper Collins, 2008, 320 pp, $17.99, Fantasy, ISBN:0060530928
Nobody "Bod" Owens becomes an orphan, escapes from a cold-hearted murderer named Jack, and is adopted by the ghosts of a graveyard... all within the first chapter of this fantastical novel.
When Bod is adopted, he is given the "Freedom of the Graveyard." This means, as his guardian Silas explains, "...the Graveyard is taking care of you. While you are here, you can see in the darkness. You can walk some of the ways that the living should not travel. The eyes of the living will slip from you." Because "it takes a graveyard to raise a child," Bod grows up learning the ways of the world (and the ways of the dead!) from a variety of ghosts, a wonderfully cynical witch, a Hound of God (the opposite of a Hell Hound, see?), and from his guardian - who may or may not be a vampire. All of these characters do their best to protect Bod, ruling that he must stay within the gates of the graveyard where they can keep him safe. However, as Bod becomes a young man, he becomes more and more curious about the world outside the gates.
The man Jack is always out there, though. If Bod is to ultimately defeat him and be free in the world, he will not be able to do it alone.
The Graveyard Book is truly a coming of age tale, a story about the necessity of finding yourself, while still valuing the family who made you that way. Mixing elements of the macabre and shades of evil with heart-warming moments of truth and innocence, it's easy to see how The Graveyard Book won the 2009 John Newbery Medal. Although it can be touted as a fabulous "boy book," girls will surely enjoy it as well. I can envision this book being read by students from 4th or 5th grade and up.
Students who like The Graveyard Book, will surely also be fans of Coraline, author Neil Gaiman's first best seller for children and young adults. Coraline is a walk on the darker side of Alice in Wonderland. It is the story of young, lonely girl who goes looking for a respite from the real world's shades of gray, and discovers a child's dream world, complete with her "other" mother and father. The thing about dreams is... sometimes they turn into nightmares.
*Neil Gaiman's personal website: It is positively bursting with interesting items to look at, watch, and read. Snoop around! You'll be intrigued by what you see.
* Alternative illustrations for The Graveyard Book
* A fan's imaginings of Bod and his cohorts
*Neil Gaiman narrating a trailer for The Graveyard Book