Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Plot Summary: Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family...

I was already a fan of Neil Gaiman before I picked up this book, and now I’m an even bigger fan. I mean, how many people could pull off a story of a boy being raised in a graveyard? Not many.

I had some trepidation about the subject, and the manner in which this boy came to the graveyard. But Mr. Gaiman handled it beautifully. Despite the underlying darkness, there are no gruesome details. No horrifying scenes. Just action, adventure, and a lot of sympathy for a boy named Nobody.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

This whole book is told from Bod as a toddler to Bod as a teenager, through vignette type stories. We see Bod grow up, and are only given the most important details along the way: Scarlet, fading, the ghouls, etc. They all play a vital part in the end. I was fascinated by this strategy, because it reminded me of a series with an overall storyline.

This is also a multiple viewpoint story that doesn’t head-hop. We see the information we need to see while maintaining our connection to Bod, and we don’t migrate from head to head within a scene. The different viewpoints have a definite purpose, and are clearly laid out so the reader knows who is speaking at all times.

There were more telling phrases than I prefer (“Bod knew” or “Bod thought” etc), but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story. In fact, I was both pleased and surprised that this book won the Newbery. It’s more plot-driven than character-driven, which doesn’t usually get recognized.

Overall, I loved it. And I think it’s a book that kids will love, too, though a warning that the story opens with murder might be in order. : )

11 comments:

beth said...

*shields eyes* You keep reading the good books a few weeks before me!!! :)

Tabitha said...

LOL!! Fortunately I didn't give much away in this post. So even if your eye sheild failed, you'd still be okay. :)

Kelly said...

I read the top half, because I haven't read it either. But I recently purchased it for my son and can't wait to read it together with him!

Tabitha said...

It's great! If your son likes ghost stories, he'll love this book. Have fun reading it!

Mary Witzl said...

I'm NOT a Neil Gaiman fan -- I didn't like his 'American Gods' much at all, though my husband, who tends to be picky, raved about it. But I've heard so much about this book that it will definitely be up there on my to-read list. And I love ghost stories.

Tabitha said...

I read a review somewhere (can't remember where) where the reader also hated American Gods but LOVED The Graveyard Book. So, you might be okay. :)

I haven't read American Gods - I've read Stardust, which is a quick and fun read with a strong voice. If you like ghost stories, you'll probably like The Graveyard Book. :)

Jacqui said...

Like Mary, I wasn't a fan of American Gods, but I LOVED this book. I made my husband read it and he wisely said something like, "What's so good is that it's gripping and fun and funny and dark and then all of a sudden you realize it's a beautiful coming-of-age story."

Mary Witzl said...

I will definitely read this book now that I've read what you and Jacqui said about it.

And I just wanted to let you know that 'The Spectacular NOW' arrived today, and thank you so much! I'll get started reading it right away.

T. Anne said...

Thanks for the review! I'll check this one out.

Prince Balthazar said...

I haven't read it yet, and I skimmed your post and just read the last sentence. I do plan on picking it up. I'm ticked off though, because I learned too late that The Man himself, Neil Gaiman, was actually in Chicago a few months ago and I missed it. Now how did I miss that!?

Tabitha said...

Jacqui - it surely is, isn't it? I haven't read American Gods yet, but it sounds like I may not like it. Kind of hard to imagine right now. :)

Mary - YAY!!! So glad it reached safe and sound. And when you finish it, be sure to share your thoughts!

T. Anne - you'll enjoy it!

Prince B. - it's a wonderful book. I heard about his Chicago visit after the fact, too, and was quite peeved. Of course, it may not have been possible for me to go anyway since kids tend to muck up the works. Still, it would have been nice... :)