“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman and Michael McKean (Harpercollins, 2008)

Graveyard Bookstarstarstarstar

It seems inevitable in some ways that Neil Gaiman would one day write a book about a graveyard; and furthermore would make it a children’s book; and even furthermore write a wonderful tale about growing up, learning from your mistakes, and appreciating life to it’s fullest.  Welcome to The Graveyard Book.

Nobody Owens is doomed to begin with.  After his family is tragically killed by a determined and terrifying murderer who is now after him to finish the job, Bod finds himself in a graveyard adopted by some very strange ghosts and a father figure, Silas, who is neither dead nor alive, but somewhere in between.  His growing up and education is not one filled with arithmetic and grammar, but abilities of the dead like Fading and Dreamwalking.

It is no surprise that the book Gaiman was destined to write – and has spent many years working on and putting the pieces slowly together – features some of the strongest characters he has ever written.  First off there is Bod Owens, a wonderful young boy you can’t help falling in love with as you grow up with him and experience his many adventures.  Silas, the strong, paternal caretaker who is shrouded in mystery as to his origins and what it means being one of the “Honor Guard.”  Miss Lupescu, an Eastern European lady who looks after Bod for a summer, teaching him, and forcing him to eat her unusual foods.  It is a relationship that begins with hate, but ends in love and respect.  Liza Hempstock, a witch buried in potter’s field, shunned by most in the graveyard, but becoming an unusual acquaintance for Bod.  Scarlett, a living girl who considers Bod an imaginary friend at first, and then something more later.  There is even an appearance from the Lady on the Grey for the Danse Macabre.

At the end of The Graveyard Book, the reader is moved to sadness, as all things must come to end.  Gaiman has said that many readers told him they cried at the end, which is no surprise when we feel a little part of Bod in all of us.  It is the innocent, adventurous spirit within that hearkens back to stories like Peter Pan and The  Jungle Book, which Gaiman references in his acknowledgments.  The Graveyard Book doesn’t end with a bang or a whimper, but with a moving expression of hope: “But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his heart and his eyes wide open.”

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 9th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.