Book Reviews

Book Review: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

TheGraveyardBook Hardcover.jpg

The Graveyard Book

By: Neil Gaiman

Published: September 30, 2008

The Rundown: “After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.  Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy.  He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs neither to the world of the living or to the dead.  There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy.  But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…”

Don’t Get Strung Out by the Way I Look: In the center of the cover, there is a photograph of a gravestone.  The right side of the gravestone is chiseled out so that the silhouette of a boy’s face is visible.  Apropos, considering that this book is about a boy who is raised by ghosts in a graveyard.  Normally, I would criticize the cover for not providing very much information, but its whimsical creepiness would definitely appeal to children, so.  I’m not a fan, however, of how the text for the author’s name is larger than the text for the title.  Who wants to read a book called “Neil Gaiman?”

The Good Guy: Nobody “Bod” Owens is a child who is raised by ghosts in an historic graveyard after his family is murdered by the man Jack.  Bod, too young to be traumatized by the attack, is a normal boy who grows up learning ghost tricks.  For example, he is taught how to make himself invisible and how to make others afraid.  Bod is somewhat disobedient—for example, he gets in a fight with his undead guardian, Silas, and tries to run away—but he manages not to come across as bratty.  He’s an everyman character whom the reader is intended to melt into.

The Bad Guy: The man Jack, at the behest of his employers, murders Bod’s entire family, but somehow fails to kill Bod. He’s an elusive figure, appearing only at the beginning and end of the book.  Nevertheless, his first appearance is sufficiently creepy that the audience never entirely forgets about him.

What a Wonderful World: This book is dark and whimsical, a perfect introduction to the horror genre for its child audience.  It has ghosts hailing from the Victorian era back until Roman times, werewolves, vampires, ghouls, and night-gaunts.  Not to mention the organization of professional murderers…

Killer Convention: There’s an aphorism that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  In this book, it takes a graveyard.  I liked that this book stressed the importance of community.  At least in American culture, there’s this attitude that the upbringing of the child is the responsibility of no one except the child’s parents.  If the child’s parents are neglectful or in some way unable to care for the child, too bad!  Needless to say, this has caused a lot of problems.  It’s nice to see a book supporting an older way of thinking.

The Ghoul Gate: The man Jack’s motivation for murdering Bod and his family are never really clarified.  Yes, in the last chapter there’s something about an ancient prophecy concerning Bod, but that felt wishy-washy and was a letdown.  The man Jack is part of an evil cabal, but I never understood what the cabal was and what they were about.  I did like, however, that all the people in the cabal were named Jack.

Does it Represent…

Women: There are a couple of female characters.  Bod has a friend named Scarlett Perkins, whom he has adventures with.  There’s the witch, who’s buried in the unhallowed portion of the graveyard.  There’s Mrs. Lupescu, Bod’s strict teacher who makes him eat salads.  One of the school bullies was a girl.

People of Color: Scarlett is described as having dark skin, so she might be black.  Maybe.

LGBT People: No.

The Disabled: Is being dead considered a disability?

Memorable Quote: “You’re alive, Bod.  That means you have infinite potential.  You can do anything, make anything, dream anything.  If you can change the world, the world will change.  Potential.  When you’re dead, it’s gone.  Over.  You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written your name.  You may be buried here, you may even walk.  But that potential is finished.”

Recommended For: People who like dark, whimsical stories.  If you liked the first couple of Harry Potter books, you’ll like this one.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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