Title: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman ( with Illustrations by Dave McKean)
Genre: Children’s Books, Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Published: HarperCollins; 1st ed edition (September 30, 2008)
Obtained: Copy borrowed from a friend (but this one’s on my wishlist).
I have to admit, in general I’m a huge Gaiman fan. I’ve heard it said that you either like him or you don’t. I don’t tend to draw such straight lines, but I have found his stories to be for the most part surprising, and ethereal and they either pull at my imagination or they don’t. The Graveyard Book definitely pulls, and not just at my imagination, but extraordinarily; at my heart.
I have to admit, I was a little iffy with the first couple pages, thinking this was going to be straight-out horror story all the way through, but then it took a lovely shift into fanciful and it quickly became one I couldn’t put down. If I was forced to draw one comparison between Gaiman’s other works, it would be that he seems to me to be at his best when he writes for a younger audience. He gives himself more room to play, and his sense of whimsy is fully-developed.
The Graveyard Book is the story of Bod, a young boy who is raised in the most fantastical of places. A graveyard. Orphaned as an infant, after the chilling murders of his earthly family by the man named Jack, he stumbles into the graveyard. Here, he is taken in by a charming cast of the dearly departed and learns about life, for the most part, by the people positioned to appreciate it most; the dead. Here he is safe, but he is also trapped, as the murderous Jack is intent on finishing what he started, and leaving the graveyard would mean the loss of the protection Bod enjoys there.
Gaiman manages to populate his story with more than the expected ghostly cliches and provides a series of mysteries to keep us guessing throughout. His characters are entertaining, endearing and surprisingly charming. There were more than a handful that I couldn’t help wanting to know more about; like Bod’s mysterious guardian Silas. I could easily see this as a series with Silas as the bridging character throughout. Part adventure, part murder-mystery, part comedy and part supernatural history, and with the emotional resonance that it manages to strike as we see Bod’s relationship with these ghoulish characters and the outside world, it really is quite hard not to love.