Book Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
The only Neil Gaiman book I’d read was Coraline, which I’d loved. This one had long been on my TBR and finally I managed to get to it.
A baby who has just mastered the art of walking, wakes up in the middle of the night. Eager to try out his new skills he climbs out of his crib and makes his tottering way down the steps from his nursery and out of the house. He has no idea of the dangers that await him out there. Or also, the bigger danger that he has escaped – a killer is out to finish the family. He stabs the baby’s parents and older sister but has to give up in frustration on not finding that one last member.
The child makes his way to the local graveyard where he is adopted by the ghosts and is named Nobody Owens. Nobody, or Bod finds friends, parents and a mentor among the dead. The graveyard becomes his home. But he is human after all, alive and very curious. As he steps out, he finds the graveyard is perhaps the safest place for him.
This is a delightful little story – Gaiman’s tribute to the Jungle Book (did you notice the similarity in the title?). Just as Mowgli was adopted by the animals of the jungles where he was abandoned, so is Bod adopted by the ghosts of the graveyard.
He learns his alphabet from grave headstones and is coached by his dead friends in ghostly skills like fading, haunting and dream walking. He meets up with a variety of graveyard-residents – the good ghosts and the bad ones, ghouls, witches, night-gaunts and the Hounds of God.
His life might seem boring what with barely any friends and even fewer living ones, but he manages to get himself into plenty of adventures.
The most intriguing bit is obviously the setting. It creeped me out a little bit in the first few pages but by the end of the book I found myself wishing Bod would just stay there in the graveyard with his ghostly parents and his mysteriously fascinating mentor; that he wouldn’t lose his special graveyard powers or venture out in the world; his potential be damned!
But step out he does, sampling school life for a bit and even making a friend but he always returns to the graveyard.
For someone like Bod who can see and interact with ghosts, the distinction between the dead and living is rather blurred. His mentor/guardian puts things beautifully in perspective.
“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. Once 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.”
I loved how simple yet profound that quote is and how clearly it helps Bod separate the living from the dead. That is perhaps what gives him reason to give up his dead friends and seek out living ones.
The writing is simple, the story extremely engaging. Each of the chapters is written out like a short story and yet each of them moves Bod’s story forward.
I found The Graveyard book a wonderful read-together book for me and my tweens. The idea of ghosts beyond the scary evil forces they are made out to be is such a novel one. Like Gaiman says in one of his interviews, this one is ‘Not a children’s book but a book that children will enjoy’ as will adults.
Last thought: Go read it.
You can buy The Graveyard Book by clicking on the image below.
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