The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
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 to neither the world of the living nor of 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 . . . -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts: I picked this book up from the library as part of the Award Winning Reads Challenge. The Graveyard Book is the 2009 Newbery Medal Winner. From reading elsewhere on the internet, I learned that this book has won several other awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Hugo Award, and the Locus Award.
Nobody Owens comes to live in a graveyard as a toddler. He walks from his front door into the graveyard after the man Jack murders the rest of his family. He is 'adopted' by the inhabitants of the graveyard (ie, the people who are no longer alive) and raised by Mr. and Mrs. Owens with the help of the incredibly interesting Silas. Bod, as he is called, spends his days exploring every square inch of the graveyard and becoming familiar with the souls who live there. He is protected by these souls, and grows up into manhood while in their protection.
The characters that Mr. Gaiman places into this story are so, so great. The 'good' ones are so easy to become attached to and the 'bad' ones are just vile and despicable. The different vignettes within the story could each be a stand-alone story. The settings are vividly described and excellent, so much so that my mind almost played accompanying soundtrack music in my mind as I read the book.
I absolutely loved this book. It effortlessly and easily crept very high onto my all-time favorites list. While it was a bit darker than anything else I remember reading on the Newbery Award winners list, it is still worthy of the medal. I am in utter awe of the story and how somebody can just come up with something so incredibly imaginative.
When I read the Acknowledgements at the end of the book and thought on them some, I realized that I like this book even more. Mr. Gaiman tells us that this book was inspired by his then two-year-old son as he was riding his tricycle between gravestones one day. It took him over twenty years to write this story. This means that he didn't work against deadlines or big companies to finish it quickly for us. He took over twenty years to write it. It must be some of his best imagination, stories, and dreams for it to take that long to complete.
I also have to be honest: When I started the book, and even well into it, I was not sure how it came to be on a major award winning streak with childrens literature. While the writing is without a doubt award-worthy, it is quite dark and at times, I can imagine the story could be scary to a young person. On the other hand, it is (in it's own dark way) a coming-of-age story and when you look at it from that perspective, it totally fits. It is definitely different than the majority of the award winners, but I kind of like that. Thinking further, I decided that it was not really any more graphic or dark or macabre than some other great books in its genre.
All-in-all, I'm enamored. I'll be thinking on this book for a long time, and I certainly hope that one day I can own a copy of it. It is amazing, wonderful, and brilliant. It is a perfect example of why I love books. I read this book, and while I was reading it, I was totally somewhere else. Wherever Bod was, I was there too. For that reason, I recommend this book to everybody. I would caution parents, however...they might want to read it themselves first, or research it a little bit before allowing their younger readers loose with it. I do not see problems with it, but I have read in several places where parents have challenged this book being on reading lists. In fact, I will probably either read this book aloud to my children or we will listen to the audiobook together. I know my children, and they will love it too.
*I am not one to generally post trailers, but I have a reason for posting this one. This book was illustrated by Dave McKean, and I thought the style of his drawings married with the mood of the story so eloquently. Because the trailer is short and consists of the brilliant Neil Gaiman narrating while Mr. McKean's illustrations are shown, I decided to share this.