As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

October 2, 2010

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman, 2008 *Newbery Medal Winner*

The Graveyard BookNeil Gaiman has created a charming allegory of childhood. Although the book opens with a scary scene--a family is stabbed to death by "a man named Jack” --the story quickly moves into more child-friendly storytelling. The sole survivor of the attack--an 18-month-old baby--escapes his crib and his house, and toddles to a nearby graveyard. Quickly recognizing that the baby is orphaned, the graveyard's ghostly residents adopt him, name him Nobody ("Bod"), and allow him to live in their tomb. . . . The story follows Bod's progress as he grows from baby to teen, learning life’s lessons amid a cadre of the long-dead, ghouls, witches, intermittent human interlopers. (Amazon product description/review)

Review by Amy Finnegan - Writer, Reader, Bookshop Talk Host

If you haven't already read this book, I can guess what you're thinking: This ghastly tale won the Newbery Medal? Why yes . . . yes, it did. And it deserved it.

At first glance, The Graveyard Book may sound completely morbid. Who's ever heard of a kid wanting to live in a graveyard - with ghosts?! No one, and that's the brilliance of the book right there. Or at least the beginning of it. I wanted to live in this graveyard, too, and that's saying a lot coming from someone who's still a little afraid of the dark.

Odd enough, the story doesn't feel creepy at all. Yes, there are moments which I suspect frighten the youngest readers, but the main character, Bod, handles them with courage and a believable amount of good old-fashioned quick thinking. More abundant are the moments of friendship, loyalty, and . . . well, tenderness. It made me feel like graveyards were more sacred and interesting than I've ever given them credit for - especially those that are decades old and falling to pieces. What fascinating lives the deceased who reside in such places must have had (and still have, if they happen to live in Bod's graveyard).

In a nutshell: this book really surprised me by being a story I never would've thought I could like.

Market: Middle Grade/Young Adult

Language: Mild
Sensuality: None
Violence: Moderate, but more scary than gory. The first scene is as bloody as it gets.
Other Mature Themes: Death, revenge, paranormal activity

Extra love: I've both read this book and listened to it as an Audio Book.  The audio narration is one of the best I've ever heard! The author himself narrates it, and what a treat! Gaiman totally makes the story come ALIVE (pardon the pun!)


QueenScarlett said...

I'll have to check this one out. Tonight my 6YO said, "I wish ghosts were real." I asked why. "Well, I wish nice ghosts were real, so they can do work for us."

Kim said...

I loved this one, too. I remember reading the first chapter, thinking, "Wow, this won the Newbery? It's so...almost gory." :) It won me over in the end! A very unique story. Neil Gaiman is a master, for sure.

Amy Finnegan {} said...

Funny kid, Queen S! He'll love this book when he's a bit older, and he'll love Harry Potter, too! I love the ghosts in that series.

Kim, I had those exact same thoughts when I was reading the first chapter. I figured the entire book would be gory and scary, but it wasn't at all.

I have a thing about first chapters: I feel they should set the mood for the rest of the book - give the reader a taste of what they can expect - but this is one of those books that didn't do that, and I still stuck with it and was really glad that I did! :)

Michelle Witte said...

I love The Graveyard Book so much, but I have a hard time explaining the "why" of it to people. As a kids bookseller, though, I manage to sell every copy of it within a day of it arriving in the store.

What really spoke to me in this book were the demonstrations and feelings of love expressed through the relationships Bod had with the graveyard's inhabitants. Love is beautiful in all its forms.

Unlike other commenters, I adored the opening chapter. I'd picked up an advance copy at Book Expo, so I didn't know anything about it beforehand. When I read the first line, the simplicity yet depth of the sentence compelled me through the whole book, where I ended with tears in my eyes.

There is something so beautiful and lovely about this book. I really need to pick it up again. If only I can hang on to a copy long enough to read it. ;-)

Amy Finnegan {} said...

Well said, Michelle! "Beautiful and lovely" are exactly the words I often use to describe the overall feeling of this book. It's a strange thing to say about a book that includes ghosts and gouls and witches, and lets not forget a few hitmen, but the scenes that have stuck with me most are those quiet moments when Bod learned something about the world that he had been "protected" from for so long.

It IS a hard book to explain your reasons for loving it, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading this book and loved it. Thanks, Bookshop Talk, for the recommend!