Sunday, March 6, 2011

Neil Gaiman's 'The Graveyard Book'

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman isn't new. In fact, it was first published in September, 2008.

I didn't just read the book recently, either. I read it at the beginning of last year after having come across it amongst the new books at a library.

Why, then, am I reviewing (actually, re-reviewing) this book? The answer is simple. I am certain that there are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and readers in general who have not yet read this charming book.

My mind turned to this book this morning as I lay in bed sick. The story is akin to comfort food. This is the literary equivalent of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and mac 'n' cheese. At the same time, though, it is something wholly new--born in the mind of Neil Gaiman (who is probably best known for the strange and strangely charming Coraline).

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." Thus, begins Gaiman's tale of Nobody ("Bod") Owens--a little boy who's family is murdered by a mysterious knife-wielding man.

The toddler escapes such a fate, because he has wandered off from the house. He had slipped down the steps and out the open door. He finds his way to a nearby graveyard, and, there, he finds a new family. The residents of the graveyard adopt him, name him, give him the freedom of the graveyard, and raise him.

As I noted last year in a review that I'd posted on Gather, "Each chapter within the book is basically a short story in its own right. Woven together, they make for a delightful read as we follow 'Bod' through his childhood to young adulthood as he lives his life amongst the ghosts and others who are part of the graveyard landscape."

Although the book is considered a children's book, it really reaches far beyond that category. Like many a really good book, the story appeals to a wide age range and actually transcends the narrow categories that books tend to be put into.

While this tale is probably unlike any you've ever read before, it manages to be very familiar at the same time. This is a coming-of-age tale, a ghost tale, a mystery, and more all at the same time. It draws upon familiar themes such as familial love and the importance of community and puts them into a somewhat different setting (a graveyard). In the end, even with the threads of darkness that are part of the tale (starting with the brutal murders of three people), this is a comforting place to be.

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