The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was released in 2008 by Harper Collins. Neil Gaiman, as probably most of the people reading this blog know, wrote DC’s Sandman along with Death: The High Cost of Living. He also wrote the novels American Gods, Anansi Boys and the all ages book Coraline. The Graveyard Book is in the same vein as Coraline, meaning it’s a horror novel geared towards a younger audience.

The idea for The Graveyard Book came to Gaiman as he watched his two year old toddler ride his tricycle around a graveyard in 1985. Gaiman was a big fan of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and decided he would write a story like that; but rather then it taking place in a jungle it would take place in the graveyard. The book is actually a series of short stories tied together with the same characters. Each chapter being a different story.

The main plot of the book is about a boy who lives in a graveyard. When he was a toddler his family was killed by a man named Jack as they slept in their beds. As Jack went into the boy’s  room he found that the boy had left the house. The front door to the house was wide open and Jack sees the toddler enter the graveyard on top of the hill.

The ghosts in the graveyard debate whether to let the boy stay in the graveyard or not, but then the lady on the grey shows up (presented as death) and asks the dead to have mercy on the boy and they decide to let him stay. Jack tries to enter the graveyard to finish off the boy but is stopped by Silas, a mysterious man who lives in the graveyard. He manages to confuse Jack and keep the boy safe.

Two ghosts: Mr. and Mrs. Owens become the boy’s parents and call him Nobody. Silas becomes Nobody’s caretaker. Because he is the only one who can leave the cemetery to get food for the boy. Also Nobody is given the freedom of the graveyard so he can go wherever he wants in the cemetery.  While living in the graveyard he learns supernatural abilities such as scaring people, dream walking, and fading away.

The book follows Nobody from when he is a toddler to when he is a teenager. During his stay in the graveyard he makes new friends both live and dead, he is kidnapped by ghouls, he meets a shape shifter, and he has a run in with the man named Jack that kills his family.

I enjoyed this book, Gaiman does a great job setting the mood of the book and describing the graveyard.  The characters are all well written, but I felt they could have been a little more developed. I loved the way that Nobody grew throughout the book, when he is a teenager towards the end of the book I felt sorry for him. He mentions seeing the ghost children playing that he used to play with but now he is grown and doesn’t fit in with them anymore. This is what makes any book worth reading to me,  it has to have characters that you care about and does a great job describing the setting.

I did have a few problems with the book though, there are a few unanswered questions. The biggest being that we still don’t know much about what Silas is. He is presented as not living and not dead, he also has powers but the book does not get into his background and why he is the way he is. There is also a character called Mrs. Lupescu that we don’t know much about either. Also I would have liked to see a little more background information on the antagonist Jack and a couple of the other characters. I think some of the action in the book could have been done a little better. There wasn’t a lot of suspense to the story. You knew that Nobody was going to get out of all the problems that he gets into, someone always seems to be close by to save him. I think Gaiman was looking at the action as not being important to the story.

The flaws in the book are easy to overlook though, this is a book that everyone in the family can enjoy. There is some good artwork by Dave McKean and it is a fun read. A kid being raised by supernatural beings in a graveyard, you can’t go wrong with that subject matter.  I think its hard not to like a book by Neil Gaiman. So its definitely something you should check out.