Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Dave McKean

First off let me say that I cannot believe it has taken me so long to pick up this book. I was so excited when I heard it was coming out and them somehow did not get around to it until now.

With that said, on with the review. This is the story of a young boy who comes to live in a graveyard and is given the name Nobody Owens. Nobody at first does not think it odd to live in a graveyard as he has no other frame of reference but as he grows up and hungers for knowledge of the outside world he realizes that there is a whole world beyond the graveyard. He stays under the protection of a guardian named Silas who is neither dead nor alive but provides food and clothes for him as the ghosts he lives with are tied to the cemetery and cannot leave. Nobody is also not allowed to leave the graveyard because it is unsafe for him to do so. As he grows he learns that his family was killed and that the one who did it is still out there hunting for him. In the end Nobody must face his attacker and choose between a life with the living or with the dead.

I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan so I was already predisposed to like this book, and I did. I will admit to it being a bit hard to get into though. It is not that it started slowly as much as it did not draw me in right away and at one point I had to really push myself through to the next chapter. Once I did though, I was hooked. We learn about Nobody's life every few years and the gaps are never filled in so we are left to imagine them as we see fit. I actually put the book down for a few days at one point because I got so worked up over what I thought was going to happen that I couldn't bear to read it. It turned out better than I thought but I was surprised by my reaction to the crisis I saw coming. The illustrations are not my favorite. To me, they did not mesh with the book, I saw Nobody's world in a very different way. However they are very well done and do add a dark and almost ghostly feeling to the book. It is a bit long so for younger or reluctant readers it might be difficult to get through, although I think it is worth it. Nobody is an odd character to get to know, you like him but also find yourself feeling something like embarrassment for him as he tries to interact with the world outside the graveyard. His pursuit for knowledge is very realistic as it depicts how curious children are about the world around them. I would recommend this book for children ages 10-14.

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