Tuesday, February 10, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book is a wonderful coming of age story ... with a bit of a twist. This is the story of Nobody "Bod" Owens as he grows from a toddler to a young man. He has a family and the usual ups and downs of childhood as he struggles to grow up. Bod is like any other child, in many ways, except his mom and dad are ghosts, his guardian is undead, and he lives in a graveyard that he may not leave without placing himself in mortal danger.

Silas, Bod's guardian, is a rather endearing figure considering his nature as a creature of the night. He is protective of Bod and, unknown to us throughout most of the story, he strives to right the great wrong that took Bod's natural family from him and placed him in the arms of the graveyard. Silas is every child's dream of that adult who, unlike parents, understands you and will be truthful in explaining the mysteries of the grown-up world.

Most of those who live in the graveyard are protective of Bod, but there are those who would cause him harm. The indigo man, the sleer, and the ghouls are sufficiently creepy, but creepiest of all is Jack the assassin. Jack is a shadowy figure who seems to ooze evil. He reminded me a bit of the child catcher in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang**. Remember him? He could sniff out children with his long ugly nose in order to capture and cage them. Similarly, Jack can find Bod by following his scent. Shiver.

Several of the chapters in The Graveyard Book could stand on their own as short stories and perhaps, unknown to me, they have been published as such. My favorite chapter is the enchanting "Danse Macabre." It sparkles with some of the Gaiman magic found in Stardust and is a bit of a treatise on the idea that there is more to this life than what we see and that "being" is more than the corporeal.

The ending was bittersweet, as are most coming of age stories. There was a palpable sadness and excitement as Bod left the safety of his graveyard home and family in order to venture into a largely unknown and living world. Bod captures this well when he says:
"I want to see life. I want to hold it in my hands. I want to leave a footprint on the sand of a desert island. I want to play football with people. I want,” he said, and then he paused and he thought. “I want everything."
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 - Weightier and with more depth than Coraline.

Question: Did anyone else find The Graveyard Book to be a bit Ray Bradbury-ish?

**Trivia: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a children's book written by Ian Fleming of James Bond fame.

Note to other reviewers: If you've written a review for this book, please let me know by posting the permanent URL for your review in the comments. I'll be happy to add a link to your review with my post.

Also reviewed at:
nymeth at Things Mean a Lot
Fatalis Fortuna at The Fickle Hand of Fate
Natasha at Maw Books
tanabata at In Spring it is the Dawn


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I loved the ending. You said it well - a mix of excitement and sadness.

  2. I reviewed this at the beginning of January... I'm sorry to say I don't understand why everyone's so crazy about it. It was all right, but it didn't seem special to me.(http://fatalisfortuna.blogspot.com/2009/01/review-graveyard-book-by-neil-gaiman.html)

  3. I definitely want to read this one. Thanks for the review.

  4. It's on my list too. I'm a longtime Gaiman fan, and like how his stuff has a dark edge to it, even for kids. I think that honors readers.

  5. Well, I think you saw my review of this book. I liked it well enough. I can see the how Gaiman is a great storyteller. I'm not sure if I'll be picking up another one right away.