Friday, April 10, 2009

92 (2009 #17). The Graveyard Book

written and performed by Neil Gaiman

This 2009 Newbery winner was better than I expected. I didn't really care for Gaiman's American Gods, and I'm not much of a fan of horror or fantasy - The Graveyard Book has a little of the first and a lot of the second. But so many people were so happy about this book winning the Newbery that I decided to listen to the audiobook right away after purchasing it for our library's collection.

A toddler wanders away from his home after his parents and older sister are murdered, and into a nearby graveyard, where he is adopted and raised by the mostly-ghostly residents and renamed Nobody Owens, "Bod" for short. There are a number of similarities to Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Indeed, in an interview with The New York Times published January 26, 2009, Gaiman stated that he used to take his son to ride his trike in a graveyard across the street from their yardless house:

“I remember thinking once how incredibly at home he looked there,” Gaiman said. “I thought you could write something a lot like The Jungle Book and set it in a graveyard.”

Bod has a number of amusing adventures as he grows up (I especially liked his playmate at age 5, Scarlett Amber, whose parents think Bod is her imaginary friend), but the story eventually turns dark when he is 14 and the murderers of his family come back to do in Bod as well. This was actually the weakest part of the book for me, as Gaiman doesn't explain the backstory very well. It's never very clear why Bod's family is murdered and why he is still targeted, nor just who (or what) his two main protectors (Silas and Miss Lupescu) really are.

Still, I can see how this book would be really popular with children who are fans of Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and the like. With its cast of eccentric characters, many with wonderfully old-fashioned names, it will probably make a great movie. And Gaiman did an outstanding job reading his book aloud. This book would work as a read-aloud for about fourth or fifth grade, and an easy read for middle-schoolers.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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