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Book review – The Graveyard Book

May 28, 2010

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaman

This book was recommended to me by an 8th grade English teacher friend.  She actually loaned copies to my son and me, and wanted to know what we thought of the book.  That was back in February.  It is now the middle of May, and I just finished the book.  I took advantage of the break between spring and summer classes to work on my “To Read” pile.

The story starts out with the murder of an entire family, with the exception of an active toddler who had managed to escape the confines of his crib.  The toddler finds his way to an historic graveyard, all the while being pursued by his family’s killer.  When he arrives at the graveyard, he is followed by the spirit of his own mother, who implores the spirits within this graveyard to protect him.  The spirits rally around the toddler, and aided by a tall, dark stranger, they turn away murderer. 

Thus the child remains in the graveyard, under the care of Mr. & Mrs. Owens, a childless couple who have resided in the graveyard for several hundred years.  He is named Nobody Owens, because “he looks like nobody but himself”.  Because Mr. & Mrs. Owens cannot attend to Bod’s earthly needs, the strange man who turned away Bod’s would-be assassin agrees to act as his guardian.  We find out more about Bod’s guardian as the story unfolds. 

I don’t know that I would have chosen this book on my own.  While I will admit to a fondness for mystery, this book was a little more “noir” than my usual reading fare.  At times, the mystery is overshadowed by descriptions of Bod’s life in the graveyard, but these descriptions are entertaining fare.  And the conclusion of the book is exciting enough to make up for this. 

All in all, this unique story was a good read, and has left me looking for more titles by Gaiman.  The illustrations were delightful, and contributed to the mood of the book.  I would recommend this to middle grades and up. 

It is worth noting that The Graveyard Book was the 2009 Newbery Award winning book.  In my previous post, I referred to LM_Net (school library listserv) discussions on whether children’s award winning books really appeal to their target audience.  I would have to say the anectdotal evidence on this is mixed:  my English teacher friend said several of her students did not like this book, and my own resident guinea pig (my 12 year old son) read about half the book and didn’t finish it. 

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