Fans of Rudard Kipling’s Jungle Book and Harry Potter will find many similarities between these three titles. The Jungle Book, along with Neil Gaiman watching his son bike through a graveyard was the primary inspiration for this moody and dark children’s book about an orphaned boy being raised by a most peculiar crowd.
First line: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
Starting out similar to Harry Potter, the story begins with a family being murdered in the dead of night by a man Jack. The only survivor of the killings was a young toddler who had managed to crawl out of his crib and sneak out the door and into the cemetery across the street. Through some form of luck, the ghosts residing of the buried dead in the graveyard took in this boy, and defended him from the killer. Like the Jungle Book, Bod, is raised with ghosts and learns how to live and act among the ghosts as they do. The story progresses though 8 chapters. In each chapter Bod Owens, short of Nobody, is older by two years. He has a not so typical childhood in the graveyard, learning to read and write from ghosts, and eventually learning about his past.
The book is full of mystery and suspense, but is also sprinkled with witty and unexpected humor. The main characters are Bod, and his guardian Silas, a brooding man who is neither living nor dead, but can easily walk between both worlds. I often forgot it was a children’s book, there being many words I had to stop and look up in the dictionary, as well as a number of references to literary characters throughout the ages. That is all a part of Neil Gaiman’s charm in his written work. He does extensive research when writing, and it yet it seeps out in his work very casually, as if he just knows everything about everything and can make it funny through some kind of pun. My complaint is that the characters seemed a little stale and unchanging, but then, how much can you expect a ghost to change? Maybe they were set to stay the same to reflect the changes in Bod over the years?
I still place Coraline as my favorite children’s book of Neil Gaiman, and am utterly undecided in terms of which novel to adore. Neverwhere was the first creation of his that I read. I read American Gods for the majority of a 10 hour drive up from Las Vegas and Anansi Boys had me laughing constantly as I read on the train to work.
For anyone interested in buying this book, apparently it does not want to stay on the bookshelves of the big chain bookstores (its either sold out, or filed away somewhere offbeat) Amazon has marked-down the cost of the book on their website.
FINAL GRADE: A
If you haven’t already, please check out my giveaway post for a copy of The Graveyard Book, and the recap for a night with Neil Gaiman, stop 6 of his 9 city book tour.
*********The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman HarperCollins, 2008 0060530928 320 pages