The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
|The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Utterly, utterly gorgeous fantasy novel about life, death, family and growing up. It combines the charming and macabre and has something for everyone aged eight to eighty-eight. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: October 2008|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing|
|External links: Author's website|
There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.
And the man Jack knows very well how to wield a knife. Mother, father, sister dispatched, he goes in search of the baby. But the little boy has gone on a night wander, as is his habit, and the man Jack sets off in hot pursuit of his most important victim. He's to be denied. The baby has crawled down to the local graveyard whose residents protect him. After a long meeting, they decide to take him in. And this how it comes to pass that Nobody Owens, Bod for short, has no other friends than the dead.
With the Freedom of the Graveyard, Bod is given an interesting start in life. The dear departed are an eccentric bunch, but they look after him lovingly and well. But as he grows, Bod begins to discover that the danger from Jack is far from over.
Oh, this is a gorgeous, gorgeous book. I cried at the end! The title is in homage to Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and it has much of that classic's charm and honesty. It's all about life, death, family and growing up and it has such tenderness, but a direct tone and a subtle underlying humour protect it from saccharine. The main narrative follows Bod through his childhood in eight chapters, each taking place two years after its predecessor. Suspense is maintained through the first half by Silas, Bod's mysterious guardian, who is not quite dead, but not quite alive either, and very sorry for the things he's done in the past. Gaiman never describes his fanged teeth - but they're there in your imagination. In the second half of the book, the threat from Jack takes centre stage and we can only hope Bod has learned enough to defeat it.
Bod himself is a delight. He's lonely sometimes, but he knows he is loved. He's a thinker, but he possesses great courage. And as he grows in maturity and wisdom, you really do feel as if you are growing with him. It takes a master storyteller to give you that. There's a whole host of wonderful cameos amongst the dead. Each comes complete with an appropriate gravestone inscription - Doctor Trefusis (1870-1936 May He Wake To Glory). My favourite was the poet who punished his critics by refusing to ever publish another poem again. That told 'em! The villains are, admittedly, little more than cardboard cutouts, but this book is all about Bod, and it's the only tiny nitpick I can think of to balance my gushing.
I read the children's edition, with stupendous, intricate illustrations from the wonderful Chris Riddell, of whom we think very highly here at Bookbag, but there's also an adult edition illustrated by the much more visceral, but equally wonderful Dave McKean. I can't tell you how much I loved The Graveyard Book. It combines the charming with the macabre. It's direct and open and honest enough for an eight year-old to read it, but but it has a depth and quality to rival any adult fantasy fable. Don't miss it.
My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.
You can see the cover of both editions in the Amazon links above. Children who enjoyed The Graveyard Book might also like Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln. Adults might like Fup by Jim Dodge.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is in the Top Ten Quirky Kids' Books.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is in the Top Ten Books With Gorgeous Illustrations.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is in the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is in the Carnegie Medal Shortlist 2010.
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