Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean
Harper Collins
307 pages

When you first enter this book blogging world, you immediately notice that there are several authors who keep popping up on many a blog.  As in, they and their books almost lend themselves to becoming exalted, praised by every blogger under the sun. 

Neil Gaiman is such an author and The Graveyard Book is such a book.  When I first started blogging three years ago, it seemed as if all I heard about was Mr. Gaiman.  I confess, I never heard of the guy beforehand.  Maybe one day, I thought to myself, I'd pick up one of his books and see what all the fuss is about.

So I did.  Crazy Hair was on display in the children's room at the library and I checked it out - and loved it more than my kids did.  (They enjoyed it, but it was definitely enough to make me think there might be something to this Gaiman thing after all.)

It has taken me two years to pick up The Graveyard Book, and I gotta say ... all you bloggers who love this one are absolutely right.  I didn't really know what to expect (and I admit, there was something about reading Neil Gaiman that kind of intimidated me for some reason) but I was pleasantly surprised.  This is more fairy tale than fright-fest, more enchantment than gore.  Right from the first couple pages, I was captivated by the story of a baby who crawls away from his family - all murdered - to live among the larger-than-life spirits in a nearby graveyard. 

"Ever since the child had learned to walk he had been his mother's and father's despair and delight, for there never was such a boy for wandering, for climbing up things, for getting into and out of things. That night, he had been woken by the sound of something on the floor beneath him falling with a crash. Awake, he soon became bored, and had begun looking for a way out of his crib. It had high sides, like the walls of his playpen downstairs, but he was convinced that he could scale it. All he needed was a step ..."  (pg 10-11)

C'mon, doesn't that make you want read on to find out what happens to the orphaned boy? 

What happens is that he makes his way to a nearby graveyard where he is taken in by the kindly souls that reside there.  He gets parents and a new name ("Nobody Owens," and is nicknamed Bod), and a guardian named Silas.  They teach him practical things, like history and the alphabet and how to Fade and Haunt. 

In Bod, Gaiman creates such an endearing, lovable character that you just want to scoop him up and adopt him.  He evokes your sympathy, first with the loss of his entire family and then as he is ignored by much of the world when he does, on occasion, venture out of the graveyard.

"Bod was used to being ignored, to existing in the shadows. When glances naturally slip from you, you become very aware of eyes upon you, of glances in your direction, of attention. And if you barely exist in people's minds as another living person then being pointed to, being followed around ... these things draw attention to themselves." (pg. 186)

As Bod grows into a young man, however, the world outside the gates of the graveyard proves to be too enticing, despite the dangers lurking. One of the many themes of The Graveyard Book, then, becomes how to gain the courage to leave your comfort zone and to take risks and discover your potential.

"Bod shrugged. 'So?' he said. 'It's only death.  I mean, all of my best friends are dead.'

'Yes.' Silas hesitated. 'They are. And they are, for the most part, done with the world. You are not. You're alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you 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." (pg. 179)

The Graveyard Book is one that will resonate with all age groups, even though it is slated for 9-12 year olds. (For some more sensitive souls on the younger end, the idea of one's whole family being murdered might be too much to handle; I know that would definitely be the case for my kids. You might want to use your parental judgment on this.)

Oh. One more thing that will only make sense to those who have read the book.  I borrowed this one from the library, and what did I discover left inside the book but this:

I didn't think anything of it at first, but when I got to the part of the story with Abanazer Bolger locking Bod in the storeroom, and the mention of the little card ... well, that just kind of intensified the goosebump factor.  Good thing the card says Ben instead of Jack, otherwise I don't know if I would have been able to sleep.

And yeah, I am leaving the card in the book for the next library patron to experience the full effect of The Graveyard Book. Maybe even in that very section.

I think Neil Gaiman would approve.

What Other Bloggers Thought (there are hundreds of reviews of this one ... did I miss yours?)

Alison's Book Marks
Bart's Bookshelf
Becky's Book Reviews
The Bluestocking Society
Capricious Reader
Devourer of Books
Em's Bookshelf
Fantasy Cafe
Farm Lane Books
Fizzy Thoughts
Fyrefly's Book Blog 
I'm Booking It
The Literate Housewife Review
Maw Books Blog
Melody's Reading Corner
Necromancy Never Pays
Ready When You Are, C.B.
Rebecca Reads
Rhapsody in Books
Savidge Reads
Shelf Love
Stainless Steel Droppings
Stella Matutina
There's A Book
The Zen Leaf

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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