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It takes a graveyard to raise a child.
Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves ...
It takes a graveyard to raise a child.
Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family.
2009 Newbery Medal Winner
2009 Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel
2010 Carnegie Medal Winner
A lavish middle-grade novel, Gaiman's first since Coraline, this gothic fantasy almost lives up to its extravagant advance billing. The opening is enthralling: "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." Evading the murderer who kills the rest of his family, a child roughly 18 months old climbs out of his crib, bumps his bottom down a steep stairway, walks out the open door and crosses the street into the cemetery opposite, where ghosts take him in. What mystery/horror/suspense reader could stop here, especially with Gaiman's talent for storytelling? The author riffs on the Jungle Book, folklore, nursery rhymes and history; he tosses in werewolves and hints at vampires-and he makes these figures seem like metaphors for transitions in childhood and youth. As the boy, called Nobody or Bod, grows up, the killer still stalking him, there are slack moments and some repetition-not enough to spoil a reader's pleasure, but noticeable all the same. When the chilling moments do come, they are as genuinely frightening as only Gaiman can make them, and redeem any shortcomings. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Somewhere in contemporary Britain, "the man Jack" uses his razor-sharp knife to murder a family, but the youngest, a toddler, slips away. The boy ends up in a graveyard, where the ghostly inhabitants adopt him to keep him safe. Nobody Owens, so named because he "looks like nobody but himself," grows up among a multigenerational cast of characters from different historical periods that includes matronly Mistress Owens; ancient Roman Caius Pompeius; an opinionated young witch; a melodramatic hack poet; and Bod's beloved mentor and guardian, Silas, who is neither living nor dead and has secrets of his own. As he grows up, Bod has a series of adventures, both in and out of the graveyard, and the threat of the man Jack who continues to hunt for him is ever present. Bod's love for his graveyard family and vice versa provide the emotional center, amid suspense, spot-on humor, and delightful scene-setting. The child Bod's behavior is occasionally too precocious to be believed, and a series of puns on the name Jack render the villain a bit less frightening than he should be, though only momentarily. Aside from these small flaws, however, Gaiman has created a rich, surprising, and sometimes disturbing tale of dreams, ghouls, murderers, trickery, and family.-Megan Honig, New York Public Library
Graveyard Book, The MSR
How Nobody Came to the Graveyard
There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.
The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.
The street door was still open, just a little, where the knife and the man who held it had slipped in, and wisps of nighttime mist slithered and twined into the house through the open door.
The man Jack paused on the landing. With his left hand he pulled a large white handkerchief from the pocket of his black coat, and with it he wiped off the knife and his gloved right hand which had been holding it; then he put the handkerchief away. The hunt was almost over. He had left the woman in her bed, the man on the bedroom floor, the older child in her brightly colored bedroom, surrounded by toys and half-finished models. That only left the little one, a baby barely a toddler, to take care of. One more and his task would be done.
He flexed his fingers. The man Jack was, above all things, a professional, or so he told himself, and he would not allow himself to smile until the job was completed.
His hair was dark and his eyes were dark and he wore black leather gloves of the thinnest lambskin.
The toddler's room was at the very top of the house. The man Jack walked up the stairs, his feet silent on the carpeting. Then he pushed open the attic door, and he walked in. His shoes were black leather, and they werepolished to such a shine that they looked like dark mirrors: you could see the moon reflected in them, tiny and half full.
The real moon shone through the casement window. Its light was not bright, and it was diffused by the mist, but the man Jack would not need much light. The moonlight was enough. It would do.
He could make out the shape of the child in the crib, head and limbs and torso.
The crib had high, slatted sides to prevent the child from getting out. Jack leaned over, raised his right hand, the one holding the knife, and he aimed for the chest . . .
. . . and then he lowered his hand. The shape in the crib was a teddy bear. There was no child.
The man Jack's eyes were accustomed to the dim moonlight, so he had no desire to turn on an electric light. And light was not that important, after all. He had other skills.
The man Jack sniffed the air. He ignored the scents that had come into the room with him, dismissed the scents that he could safely ignore, honed in on the smell of the thing he had come to find. He could smell the child: a milky smell, like chocolate chip cookies, and the sour tang of a wet, disposable, nighttime diaper. He could smell the baby shampoo in its hair, and something small and rubbery...a toy, he thought, and then, no, something to suck...that the child had been carrying.
The child had been here. It was here no longer. The man Jack followed his nose down the stairs through the middle of the tall, thin house. He inspected the bathroom, the kitchen, the airing cupboard, and, finally, the downstairs hall, in which there was nothing to be seen but the family's bicycles, a pile of empty shopping bags, a fallen diaper, and the stray tendrils of fog that had insinuated themselves into the hall from the open door to the street.
The man Jack made a small noise then, a grunt that contained in it both frustration and also satisfaction. He slipped the knife into its sheath in the inside pocket of his long coat, and he stepped out into the street. There was moonlight, and there were streetlights, but the fog stifled everything, muted light and muffled sound and made the night shadowy and treacherous. He looked down the hill towards the light of the closed shops, then up the street, where the last high houses wound up the hill on their way to the darkness of the old graveyard.
The man Jack sniffed the air. Then, without hurrying, he began to walk up the hill.
Ever since the child had learned to walk he had been his mother's and father's despair and delight, for there never was such a boy for wandering, for climbing up things, for getting into and out of things. That night, he had been woken by the sound of something on the floor beneath him falling with a crash. Awake, he soon became bored, and had begun looking for a way out of his crib. It had high sides, like the walls of his playpen downstairs, but he was convinced that he could scale it. All he needed was a step . . .
He pulled his large, golden teddy bear into the corner of the crib, then, holding the railing in his tiny hands, he put his foot onto the bear's lap, the other foot up on the bear's head, and he pulled himself up into a standing position, and then he half-climbed, half-toppled over the railing and out of the crib.
He landed with a muffled thump on a small mound of furry, fuzzy toys, some of them presents from relations from his first birthday, not six months gone, some of them inherited from his older sister. He was surprised when he hit the floor, but he did not cry out: if you cried they came and put you back in your crib.
He crawled out of the room.Graveyard Book, The MSR. Copyright © by Neil Gaiman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted May 19, 2009
After reading the first 4 pages of Graveyard I was hooked. Big time. The writing was great, the concept fantastic and I was certain that I was going to absolutely love this book. And I did, up till about page 40. Then nothing happened. For the next 200 pages there was no conflict, no danger, no drama, no laughs. Just Bod learning school-like lessons, meeting the ghosts of the graveyard, wandering about, doing this, doing that. Excruciatingly boring stuff. I was so disappointed. Nonetheless I trudged and trudged and trudged on to the end. Thankfully the ending was pretty satisfying, though predictable.
For the life of me I can't figure out how anyone could give this mediocre work such high marks, let alone a major award. And for those comparing Graveyard to The Jungle Book...Gaiman's disaster is not fit to wipe the dust from Kipling's classic.
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Posted May 27, 2009
My 4th grade son had to pick a Newbery Award winning book, so he picked this one because it was the newest. At first the vocabulary was challenging. My son was annoyed at having to look words up in the dictionary, but the story was so enticing that eventually acquiesced since the difficult words were so relevent to the theme of the story and the storyline. Great overall lesson to be learned in the story, although I had to explain it to my son, due to the mature ideas. Loved it and my son enjoyed doing his report, thanks to the book.
26 out of 30 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 21, 2009
Check Out the Graveyard!
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, is one of the most interesting books I have ever read! Imagine a book about a graveyard! This setting alone is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. From people breaking into houses, murder and talking to the dead, you never know what to expect next.
This tale is about a boy whose family is killed in the middle of the night. The boy, Bod, is forced to live in a graveyard where he is raised by ghosts. Bod can not leave the graveyard because there is an evil man named Jack who wants him dead. As you read Bod's adventures, you can just tell that this is going to be a great story.
The manner in which Gaiman writes this story makes you feel like it is normal to have ghosts as adoptive parents or family members. The ghosts talk just like people who are alive. The ghosts realize that they need help to raise the boy, or as they say, "It will take a graveyard." This book actually makes a graveyard sound like an interesting and lively place rather than a dull and boring place. How many people get to eat meals in a tomb? In addition, the characters such as Silas and Mr. and Mrs. Owens add to the plot by making the story more interesting. For instance, there are many questions raised when Silas says "You must be alive or you must be dead to dance it-and I am neither." It was obvious that Bod enjoyed living in the graveyard. However, it is hinted that he has to leave at some point, when Gaiman writes "sometimes he can no longer see the dead."
Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is a great book for readers who like to be on the edge of their seat and creeped out. It's packed with action and creepy stuff that will keep the reader interested and entertained. In addition, the story illustrates that there can be all kinds of families. As any ghost would agree, I give The Graveyard Book 10 tombstones out of 10 for all teenagers..
19 out of 24 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 16, 2009
This books had a dark and scary tone. It would be Ok for an adult or older child. I suggest parents use caution before buying this book.
18 out of 43 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 15, 2009
I enjoyed the book as an adult, the story was engaging and I had a soft spot for Nobody. I liked the twists and turns, the changes in relationships as Nobody grows up, and the ways Nobody met his challenges. I grinned when he complained about learning certain words in multiple languages!<BR/><BR/>My only concern: I'm not sure of the age group listed, I wouldn't have liked the school assigning this book to my kids when they were 9 or 10, they wouldn't have handled the beginning well. I'd have rated it higher if it was for a slightly older group.
17 out of 24 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 6, 2009
Neil Gaiman crafts a perfectly poetic story; every time I sit down to read his latest, I am always surprised by how much I enjoyed his lean books. He manages to put so much perspective into very small places. In the Graveyard Book, each chapter was a small adventure in learning the way things that are not alive "live" in other planes of existence, thrilling but nothing too over the top or phantasmagoric. He leaves the door open for his creatures/characters to have a story of their own, not only alive for the story he is presently telling. The characters could as very well have their own volumes of stories to tell. The Graveyard Book gave enough detail about each character to build a gray-yet-earthy moving picture, but not too much that it was wordy or heavy. Ghouls and creatures of the night have their own stories to tell, most of them repeating history and their life story said and buried. The lesson Nobody Owens, the main character, learns is the great potential of opportunity that living and breathing things are given; essentially that life is a gift much like a ticking clock - time is meant to pass but how will you spend your days before your volume is written? Sure, the dead may be family of great worth to Bod, loving and able to be loved, but they are shadows of what was and he is alive after all. Each person has a story to tell, but each has to be his own creator and seek out his own experiences. There is only so much to see and do in an unchanging graveyard, accept for maybe the addition of a newly departed spirit who may walk the grounds. Throughout the story Bod gets himself in a variety of situations of which help him learn survival skills and hone his wit as his ages, forming an ecclectic open minded character owning secrets of the graveyard but having much to learn; at any age our perspective can be refreshed by the storyline.
13 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 15, 2009
Not only do Neil Gaiman's books read like first drafts, with weak plots and undeveloped characters, but on a philosophical level they are depressing. How he won a Newbery is beyond comprehension. Gaiman has learned to turn a pretty phrase and he relies on this exlusively, choosing style over substance at every turn. His stories are meaningless confections, lovely on a superficial level like MTV but empty of any deeper power or meaning. This is the principal reason why The Graveyard Book and his other children's stories are so dreadful. In the Graveyard Book, the protagonist Bod returns a slight at school with an awful act of psychic revenge literally destroying a school girl who has crossed him. In the end, Bod even betrays his only friend after nearly getting her killed. I don't think Neil Gaiman has ever thought about what he is trying to say or why, and in childrens literature this is the deadliest of sins. If children need anything, it's a sense of meaning in their lives, not this awful self serving "look at me" style of writing. What I see Neil Gaiman does believe in is relentless self promotion, so I suspect all his awards were won by campaigning rather than merit.
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Posted May 30, 2009
This book is dull and pointless. The characters are unmemorable and badly drawn. There are no conflicts and no obstacles, nothing changes, no one learns anything. This really is a boring, tedious mess of a book. The first thought that came to my mind when I was done was, "So what?" The second thought was "Why?" This book reads like a first draft, was deeply disappointing and a huge waste of time.
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Posted February 16, 2009
I'm an adult but gravitated towards this book in the book store. I've read Coraline to my students and really enjoyed it so I was curious about this one. Gaiman had me from the first page! This is one of those books that comes alive in your mind. The characters are interesting and their relationships strong; even though most of them are ghosts! I think any avid teenage reader would enjoy this book and the many stories they'll learn from the inhabitants of the graveyard! High reading interest!
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Posted January 5, 2009
I bought this for my 11 year old for Christmas. He asked if I would read it to him (which is unusual). So, we are reading it together. It's an interesting book. We are enjoying it. I really don't understand why it is recommended for 9-12. It could be scary for kids that young. The vocabulary is also slightly complicated for that age. He is really enjoying it now that I am reading it to him. If he was trying to read it on his own though, he would have chosen something else. My 3 star rating is mostly because of the age recommendation.
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Posted October 28, 2008
Surprisingly moving, "The Graveyard Book" cast me under its spell with its deceptively simple, straightforward narrative. The story revolves around Bod, a boy who grows up living in a cemetery. Although obviously aimed at younger readers, adults can also enjoy this tale for all its macabre twists and turns and its very human characters. This is a book that doesn't dumb things down for its audience. It's not afraid to be dark and foreboding, but it's also not afraid to be lighthearted and childlike. "The Graveyard Book" struck a chord with me that I was not expecting. It has a very important message to relate, one that I shall never forget. This is the first book I've read by Neil Gaiman, but I will definitely be reading more of his work. I'm looking forward to the further adventures of Bod.
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Posted June 13, 2010
Torn. That's probably the best way to sum up how I feel about this book. After reading multiple reviews, primarily positive, I felt I had to give it a shot. Also, with the added benefit of being able to add it to my reviews for the 'A World of Awards' feature for the Newbery Award, I thought why not? But now I'm not so sure. Let me just say this, if I could leave out the last chapter there wouldn't be a question, it was great! But there it is, the LAST CHAPTER. It had me balling through every last page and wishing beyond hope that it wasn't so. I won't say more about it than that, because I won't spoil it, but I'm almost wishing there was a next book.
Sticking with the first seven chapters of the book I'll give some honest thoughts. In the first chapter Gaiman grabs your attention right away and it's almost hard to believe a story could begin in such a way, but it's so original. To even imagine that a small child would survive an attack from someone I initially considered to possibly be Jack the Ripper, crazy. Your heart breaks in almost the very first two or three pages, but quickly is healed by some very incredible moments ahead. I also held my breathe a lot during those first few pages, just hoping that things would go well and they do. Really, they have to or there wouldn't be much of a story.
Every person involved in the undertaking of raising a mortal child in the graveyard is unique and has a history that spans not only decades but centuries. There are ghosts, ghouls, werewolves, vampires, witches, plain old every day human beings, and of course The Jacks. My favorite character by far would have to be Silas, Nobody's guardian and maybe that's because (as it's been hinted by Neil himself) he's a vampire. I love a good vampire character, always have (long before the sparkly versions in today's books came to be). It's the mystery and elusiveness that he brings to the scenes. Always just enough, but not too much. But truly all of the characters are wonderful and it's neat to see how Bod interacts with each of them.
There is a scene where Silas and Bod are talking about the unconsecrated section of the graveyard, where the 'bad' people are buried. At the time Bod is only eight years old, but asks a question about people who commit suicide:
'Does it work? Are they happier?'
And Silas responds by saying something so poignant that it affects me even now:
'Sometimes. Mostly, no. It's like the people who believe they'll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn't work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you see what I mean.' p.104
In these simple sentences something that I have struggled with for some time was worked out and I have an even deeper peace about something I could do nothing to prevent. It seems silly to me that a simple middle grade fiction book could do this for me, but it did.
This is a story for someone looking for a little mystery, a bit of adventure and even (believe it or not) some romance. There are silly parts and deep parts depending on what you chose to get out of it. What I liked best about it is that I could really see a young boy getting into it. I'm positive that it's because of The Turkeybird, I'm always on the lookout for books I want him to try out when he's a bit older and this is definitely one of them. Even with the ending how it is, I look forward to talking with him about the results and how it affects his own life and relationships.
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Posted May 26, 2009
I think this book did not deserve the newbery award! it was confusing and worse boring! I think that this is a good book for a boy not a girl like me!!!!
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Posted April 14, 2009
I found this book very disappointing. The "adventures" Bod experiences were boring, nothing much happens, the spirits are more entertaining and the ending was not much of a surprise. I am surprised it won the Newberry Award. Perhaps I missed something?
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Posted September 9, 2008
I've read most of Neil Gaiman's books, and this is one of my favorites. Gaiman fanatics will remember meeting Nobody Owens in a short story about him meeting the ghost of a witch, and 'The Graveyard Book' gives Bod many more adventures. Bod is a great character, and I sincerely hope that Mr. Gaiman writes a sequel soon. You do not have to be a kid to enjoy this book, and it may be a bit too dark for younger kids (keep in mind that most of the characters are dead, after all).
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Posted January 25, 2009
I Also Recommend:
This book was a fun read. It feels more like a collection of short stories based on a single character than a novel, but by the end, you really feel the through line. This book didn't change my life, by any means, but I'm glad I read it. Vivid and imaginative characters written in a way that only Gaiman could write. If you loved Coraline, you'll love this!
7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 16, 2009
Gaiman, N. (2008). The Graveyard Book. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
After his family is murdered, a nameless toddler finds himself safe in an old graveyard and protected by the ghosts. Given the name Bod, short for Nobody Owens (Nobody Owns, get it?), he is taught by the ghosts and encounters a possible friend, ghouls, a witch, a grey lady, bullies etc. But he eventually must face the man who killed his family to finally be safe and ready to live.
While Bod ages throughout of the book, when he is supposedly six, he hardly feels like a child that young. The plot is engaging enough that older children should be willing to read to the book until Bod is closer to their own age. While there are some illustrations, the long chapters could discourage many readers. Of course, fifth or sixth grade students probably won't mind any of this if the story is read aloud to them. (I'd probably only consider sharing the book with individual students younger than that on rare occasions, for fear of the potential frights the book might include. (While the ghosts are kind. Some ghouls (especially the 33rd president of the United States) and a "wet knife" still have the potential to frighten some children)
A teacher could emphasize the sense of community that exists in the graveyard. Or the experience of dealing with bullies that Bod has some suggestions about once he begins attending school.
What's also great about this book is that the reader gets to witness the process of Bod learning to read and becoming a reader who loves books. Plus , the book shares the inevitable truth that each teenage girl should have a cell phone of her very own.
On an only slightly related note, I have been at war with Neil Gaiman for a few years now. He just doesn't know it. I want him to stop scaring the wee little children with wolves in the walls, button-eyes, etc. and he wants to write successful books and win awards.
I'm biding my time.
I may, however, have to call a truce for The Graveyard Book. Don't get me wrong, there's still murder and fiendish characters. But the ghosts are fun and give Bod a safe and supportive environment. And they make me laugh.
Activities to do with the book:
Given the fact that most of the ghosts who live in the graveyard had lived in different centuries, a teacher could guide students in research into the various time periods. Of course, a student may need to provide some extra support to American students, since this is set in England and assumes the geography and history of Europe. Students could also do research projects on subject such as the humors, once believed to have medical significance.
This is a good read aloud. Together, students could speculate about the significance of various supernatural characters. With younger students, a teacher would probably have to pause as characters previously introduced are reintroduced much later in the text.
"There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife. The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately" (pp. 2-5).
"It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will," said Silas, "take a graveyard" (p. 23).
"It's the first nice thing anyone's done for me in five hundred years" (p. 131).
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Posted February 17, 2009
I Also Recommend:
I bought this for a "spooky" overnight adventure with two twelve year old girls. They'd conjured a ghost in our last overnight together, so I thought they'd like "The Graveyard Book," and I was right! They loved it! Gaiman's wonderful sensusous and evocative writing pulls you in, and keeps you on edge! He's so skillful. And since my two twelve year olds love to be scared... Grauman does a great job of that. If you're an adult and you want to read about dead people coming back, you might like "Love From Both Sides - A True Story of Soul Survival and Sacred Sexuality."
4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 2, 2008
While not as griping as Coraline, The Graveyard Book has, perhaps, more heart. The subtle details and effortless characterization bring the world to life as the fantastic events propel the darkly humorous, scary, and touching story forward to its tension filled conclusion. Another example of a many layered children¿s book that will not disappoint its adult readers.
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Posted January 17, 2013