The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman, with ill by Dave McKean
Read February 2009
I somehow was locked in a closet and had never even heard of this book before it won the Newberry. So yes, I hopped on the Newberry Band-wagon and checked it out from the library.
I was going to read it with my 7 year-old originally, but when I skimmed the first chapter and we open with the murder of an entire family, excluding a toddler who wanders into a graveyard, I decided this one would be a solo read.
I was thinking about what genre this would fall into and decided the it needs to be something like “children’s horror”. I wasn’t aware that “paranormal romance” was a genre, so children’s horror, or thriller would be where this fits in.
I’m split on this book. There were parts I liked and parts that were….lackluster. I can’t think of a better word. I’m glad my husband was here, I knew quickly the author was british by some of the words in the book, i.e., anarak, oh and some cockney rhyming slang, but I can’t remember what it was, it was something like “up the apples and pears” (stairs) or “the trouble and strife” (wife). I’d love to go back and find it, but I am getting sleepy and my book is due back tomorrow. 🙂
I did have to look up a word, which seems uncommon when reading a children’s book that was written in 2008. I did not know what apoplexy (the cause of the demise of Thackeray Porringer in 1734) was, until I looked it up. My husband didn’t know what it meant until we looked it up either, which made me feel less dumb!
I wasn’t a huge fan of the illustrations either. I did notice however, if you look at the cover, the negative image of the headstone, in the blue is a boy’s face. I would be interested to see what the illustrations by Chris Riddell look like in the UK version as Gaiman himself states in his authors note that they, “both drew wonderfully and differently.”
I didn’t think of the comparison to Kipling’s The Jungle Book until I read the authors note. The Jungle Book wasn’t quite as dark as this. After all, fuzzy animals vs. ghosts and spirits….a bit different.
I would recommend this 2009 Newberry Medal winner, with caution. Some children may not be ready for the dark and sometimes quite scary themes.
Topics: death, murder, ghosts, witches, ghouls, werewolves, bullying, hauntings, graveyards, scary situations
Main Characters: Nobody (Bod) Owens, Mr. Owens, Mrs. Owens, Silas, Mrs. Lupescu, Scarlett, The Jacks of All Trades
Setting: a graveyard in modern day England
Theme: After the murder of his parents and sister by the man Jack, a toddler escapes to a graveyard where he is adopted by ghost parents and given the name Nobody Owens. Bod stuggles to find out where he fits in, in the spirit world or in the human world. With the man Jack still on the loose, Silas, his guardian, and his group of ghostly friends do everything they can to protect him.
For anyone interested I found the cover for the UK version with illustrations by Chris Riddell