The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

On the night his parents and sister were murdered in their beds, a young boy toddled... read more

On the night his parents and sister were murdered in their beds, a young boy toddled out of his crib and home, and thereby avoided a similar fate. He wanders into the nearby cemetery, where long-dead Mr. and Mrs. Owens vow to adopt and raise him, although the other cemetery spirits are unsure about this plan. In a community meeting, Silas—the child’s soon-to-be mentor and guardian—states: “For good or for evil—and I firmly believe that it is for good—Mrs. Owens and her husband have taken this child under their protection. It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will . . . take a graveyard.” Given the name Nobody (or “Bod”) and the“Freedom of the Graveyard” (an existential travel pass to live among the dead), the child flourishes in this caring community. Smart dialogue is dashed with bits of humor—the residents’ tombstone epitaphs and memories from their living years provide ongoing comedy—and elements of eeriness abound. Bod visits the land of ghouls and speaks with ancient spirits in his graveyard wanderings. He’s also protected by many: Silas ensures that he’s fed and clothed, Mr. and Mrs. Owens are strict with his bedtime and education, and other souls instruct him through their life experiences. Ethereal illustrations in tones of black provide ghostly visuals—although not often necessary or fitting. As Bod grows older, he grows more curious about his origins and life outside the graveyard fence. In the meantime, the murderer hired to kill his family is intent on finishing the job. A dramatic climax will likely catch readers off guard, but it provides a satisfying conclusion to an exceptional story. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2009

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