Children’s Book Blog: Recommended read – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A mysterious villain tasked with murdering an entire family finds his mission thwarted when the youngest family member, a toddler, escapes and becomes adopted by the ghostly residents of a nearby graveyard. The ghosts name their young charge Bod (short for ‘Nobody’) and tell him they can only keep him safe if he stays within the walls of the graveyard. At first Bod is content to explore the crypts and tombs of his ghoulish home, under the watchful eye of his guardian, Silas. But as he grows older, his curiosity about the outside world becomes more than he can resist, leading both him and his friends into the gravest sort of danger…
Who’s it for?
Nine to 12 year-olds with a taste for the macabre.
Why should I read it?
Neil Gaiman is something of a deity among grown-up fantasy fans (see American Gods, Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, though only if you’re old enough!) Here he proves that his seemingly boundless imagination and masterful storytelling are just as potent in the world of children’s fiction as they are in the adult sphere – if not more so.
The book’s central premise of a child being raised by ghosts in a graveyard is staggeringly original and allows the story’s young protagonist, Bod, to embark on all sorts of otherworldly adventures, whether he’s raiding tombs guarded by ancient spirits, taking language lessons from a werewolf or journeying to the barren hellscape that is the land of the ‘ghouls’. The intricacies of the undead society within the graveyard are endlessly fascinating, and the intrigue only increases as Bod grows up and attempts to assimilate with the living – his abortive attempt at attending a regular school is particularly poignant.
The book’s structure is satisfyingly episodic, with each chapter jumping ahead about two years in Bod’s life. The most enjoyable aspect of the story though, is seeing beings who would be presented as objects of terror in another tale rendered harmless – though still pretty spooky – through familiarity.
Best character: Bod’s guardian Silas, whose creepy exterior disguises a kind – if unbeating – heart. While it’s never exactly spelled out what sort of creature Silas is, the fact that he only comes out at night, cannot see his reflection in mirrors and survives on one very particular form of sustenance are a bit of a giveaway.
Best line: ‘This is a graveyard, not a nursery, blast it!’
If I like this, what other books might I like?
Amphigorey, a collection of 15 short stories by American writer and artist Edward Gorey. The Hapless Child and The Gashlycrumb Tinies are especially worth looking out for.Tagged in: American Gods, Edward Gorey, Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter