THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman, illustrations by Dave McKean – Review for TWU course

BIBLIOGRAPHY Gaiman, Neil. 2008. The Graveyard Book.  Ill. by Dave Mckean. New York, NY: Harper Collins Children’s Books. ISBN 9780060530921.

PLOT SUMMARY

His family having been murdered when he was a toddler, Nobody “Bod” Owens lives in a graveyard.  He’s been raised and educated by the occupants.  The story follows Bod’s growth and learning to live in the graveyard and the big world outside.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

While Bod is a human, he does learn some of the skills of the dead, such as how to fade.  He’d be an absolutely normal little boy if he hadn’t been raised by the dead, although he is easy to relate to.  His curiosity is high and along with his sense of adventure, leads him out into the “real” world and some situations that compromise the life he’s known in the graveyards with his unusual family. 

Neil Gaiman creates a plot that fully takes charge of your fantasy, linking the believable with the not so believable into a world of fascination and imagination.  Gaiman’s story telling and attention to detail bring the graveyard and the individual crypts and tunnels to life for both Bod and the reader.  When Bod meets Scarlett and pulls her into his world where she meets “the Indigo Man,” the reader can easily put themselves in Scarlett’s place and experience the story with her.  Gaiman makes the characters believable in this land of fantasy.

In spite of the evil start to his life, Bod’s story is one that shows that good triumphs in the end.  The graveyard seems a scary, evil place sometimes, but the good and wonderful about it are brought out and emphasized, shaping Bod into who he is.

Gaiman is what I think of as a “bit off center” which is something I truly enjoy in a storyteller.  Taking a story and twisting and turning, putting odd situations and characters into it, stretches the imagination.  The Graveyard Book did not disappoint in this.  I’d encourage readers to delve into this book and see how Bod, a child with a very rough start in life and raised by the dead, manages to triumph in the end.  The twists and turns will have you hanging on for the next chapter, wondering where your imagination will be taken next.


REVIEW EXCERPT(S)

Newbury Medal 2009 winner 

Hugo 2009 Best Science Fiction novel

Boston Glob Horn Book Award – finalist 2009 Fiction and Poetry, Honor

Newbury Medal 2008 – Children’s Literature

Carnegie Medal 2010

Bookmarks Magazine Neil Gaiman’s fantasies have entranced both younger readers and adults; this gothic fantasy, a coming-of-age story modeled after The Jungle Book and with slight nods to Harry Potter, will appeal to all ages. By juxtaposing the world of the dead with the world of the living, Gaiman creates a fantastical world where the thoughtful protagonist comes to understand the power of family as he experiences the fear, pains, confusions, and joys of growing up. Critics praised each illustrated chapter as its own little gem, with moments both tender and terrifying—and each equally exciting.

Booklist, starred review “This is an utterly captivating tale that is cleverly told through an entertaining cast of ghostly characters. There is plenty of darkness, but the novel’s ultimate message is strong and life affirming. Although marketed to the younger YA set, this is a rich story with broad appeal and is highly recommended for teens of all ages.

CONNECTIONS

Reading the first chapter, to entice students to read the book on their own, or reading the entire book aloud to a class is a wonderful prelude to a history lesson.  A field trip to a graveyard could be coordinated, crayon etchings done on stones, history looked up or “imagined” based upon what the kids found in the graveyard.  Some people deem a graveyard creepy, I have always loved the rich history in them and the way my mind starts putting stories together upon seeing names and information on the stones.  Makes me very curious about the people who once lived in the area.  What a fun, local history lesson this could be.

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