The Graveyard Book

[openbook booknumber=”9780060530921″][rating:5/5]

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 to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy – an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.

But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack – who has already killed Bod’s family…

This book was an amazing middle grade coming of age novel and I loved it! From the author that penned Coraline comes The Graveyard Book a book about a young boy whose parents are brutally murdered (off camera) when he is a baby and left unattended he wanders into a graveyard. To protect the boy from the serial killer Jack the graveyard inhabitants adopt him and raise him as their own. They even give him a name of their choosing, Nobody. He grows up surrounded by ghosts and ghouls and other creatures more mysterious and left unnamed. Somehow with their help he must grow up and learn about this world and with the help of the dead be given the tools he needs to live his own life, hopefully before the serial killer comes back and snuffs it out permanently.

Silas continued, in his voice like velvet, “You had parents. An older sister. They were killed. I believe that you were to have been killed as well, and that you were not was due to chance, and the intervention of the Owenses.”
       “And you,” said Bod, who had had that night described to him over the years by many people, some of whom had even been there. It had been a big night in the graveyard.
       Silas said, “Out there, the man who killed your family is, I believe, still looking for you, still intends to kill you.”
       Bod shrugged. “So?” he said. “It’s only death. I mean, all of my best friends are dead.”

I loved the storytelling and the research that went into this book. I loved the history and little side stories we are teased with all along Bod’s way as he grows up in a graveyard full of ghosts with memories and histories and stories to tell. I loved the illustrations as well. I thought they were lovely and well done and matched the mood of the book perfectly.

I was surprised at how sinister the opening was with the serial killer gripping a knife in the opening scenes. But the tension proved to be written well and it never went too over the top with it. Also for a book about ghosts, ghouls and things both dead and undead I thought the book managed to keep things interesting and light instead of getting bogged down in macabre. For example in one scene Bod explores a very old part of the graveyard that has been reclaimed by the forest preserve and ends up falling 20 feet into an open grave and twisting his ankle on a casket. I would be screaming at this point but Bod is not because the ghost from the casket comes out and turns out to be a doctor and insists on checking Bod’s ankle for injuries before going to fetch help.

Because this is a book that deals with death there is a lot of discussion about what that means and the relationship between the living and the dead. I, for one, thought that being raised in a graveyard meant that Bod got to have a very enlightened understanding about life and death because of this at a very young age. He knows its going to happen someday, as it does to all of us, and he doesn’t fear it because most of his friends are dead. I think this book could work out well to open up a dialog about death with a child as well as about life.

Neil Gaiman credits The Jungle Book at the end of this book as inspiration for The Graveyard Book but I was forcibly put in mind of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Both well written middle grade novels about a young boy coming of age. Both protagonists also facing death at the hands of one man who killed their family. This is one of the best books I have read all year even though it is not at all for my age range. I highly recommend it for children of all ages. Also I thought this book particularly lent itself to being read aloud as well. Combined with the illustrations it makes a great story to read with your children, though perhaps not just before bed.

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