Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

Title:  The Graveyard Book
Author:  Neil Gaiman
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Pages:  307
Genre:  Fantasy
Age Level:  6th-9th Grade

Plot Summary:
A man in black walks through a house in a small English village.  He is searching for a baby, a baby that he knew must be there.  As he searches, he passes a mother, father, and daughter-all killed by his hand.  He is Jack, and he was sent to this house with a job to do.  He catches scent of the baby, and follows the smell to a large graveyard at the top of a hill.  What Jack doesn't know is that he is not the only thing awake in the graveyard.  All of the ghosts have gathered, along with Silas, a mysterious stranger, neither living nor dead.  They have gathered to discuss the fate of the small boy that has toddled into their midst-do they keep him, therefore saving him, or do they leave him to meet his fate at Jack's hands?  When they decide to keep him, Jack is sent from the graveyard, but everyone knows that the boy, soon to be known as Nobody Owens (Bod, for short) will not be out of danger until Jack is stopped for good.  This is Bod's story-the story of a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard.

Now this is a Neil Gaiman book I can get behind!  I know that I read another of his books last week, and wasn't so jazzed by it, but this book is properly a book, and therefore already has a heads up from that modified pilot-script called Interworlds. The plot is creative, and once again Gaiman melds aspects of real life with fantasy in such a way that the whole seems completely believable.  I was totally drawn into Bod's world, and at times wished I had my own ancient graveyard to prowl around in, learning about the Romans and the middle ages and the Victorians from actual Romans, Victorians, and denizens of the middle ages.  Gaiman's style is quirky, and unexpectedly sweet, especially in describing the relationship between Bod and his guardian, Silas-who, for the record, can't be seen in a mirror, sleeps all day, and sometimes seems to turn into a large animal with wings that can fly.  Despite all of the sparkly or otherwise cuddly vampire characters recently, you somehow don't expect it of Silas.  The whole tone of the book is one of dark menace, but with a childlike playfulness that should be in contrast to the sinister mood but in fact compliments it.

The story does have a few weak points, areas where I wanted more back story or exposition. There are many mythical or supernatural beings mentioned and never fully explained.  And actually I think that Gaiman could have spent a bit more time on the motivation behind Jack's actions in killing Bod's family.  There is a reason given, but it is not terribly well-developed.  That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through the tombs!

Teacher Resources:

Online Quiz 

Learning Through Listening

Teachervision Book Discussion Guide

E-Notes: The Graveyard Book


  1. I love The Graveyeard Book - glad this one worked for you..

    Some of his books as acclaimed as they are does nothing for me as well namely Sandman..


  2. Oh my, Teacher Resources!!! Now I'm a follower for sure. I'm a middle school teacher becoming a librarian and I looooove teacher blogs :)