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The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

2010/07/20

Gaiman’s Newbery award-winning children’s novel is set in an unlikely place — a graveyard — with an unlikely cast of likable characters, mostly dead.

In the middle of the night while an assassin is killing the rest of his family, a little boy climbs out of his crib, down the stairs, across the street, and into a graveyard, where the ghost of his mother begs the residents to take care of her son. The Owens and Silas become the guardian of the boy, whom they name Nobody Owens, or “Bod.” Bod grows up to be a “quiet child with sober grey eyes and a mop of tousled, mouse colored hair… for the most part, obedient.” Still, Bod manages to get into all sorts of adventures — learning letters by reading tombstones, pretending to be an imaginary friend to a little girl from the neighborhood, investigating old tombs, befriending a witch, being taught lessons by a weredog, and getting caught up with a pack of ghouls. But in the meantime, Bod’s guardians are aware that the man Jack who killed his family is still looking for the boy, and Silas, who is neither dead or alive, spends many days away from the graveyard.

The story starts off with an intense opening scene, but seems to drag until the end, when Jack suddenly reappears. Each chapter begins with a black and white illustration which suggests that the novel might lend itself better to the graphic novel format. Overall it was a quick read, but I did not feel entirely satisfied once I came to the end, which is regrettable given the book’s awards and recommendations.

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