Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts.
There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that the real danger lurks for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.
Almost every blogger I know has read and loved a book by Neil Gaiman. Before I began reading blogs and blogging myself, I had only heard of the name Neil Gaiman as Terry Pratchett’s co-author on Good Omens, which I haven’t read. So when I found The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere at a stall on Portobello Road Market, I couldn’t leave them there, I had to buy them! And I’m glad that the blogosphere pointed out another of my #bookfails, because The Graveyard Book is a stunning little book. I adored Nobody Owens and the world he inhabits.
While it’s clear that the book originated as a short story and that the various chapters can be read as such, if you take its origins into account, the narrative of the book flows together wonderfully. The book shows Bod growing from a toddler to a young man and follows his exploration of his unique home and the world outside the graveyard. The stories have a fairy tale quality; most of them even have some sort of moral or life lesson hidden inside. It is a wise book and proves that not every children’s book that has a message has to be boring or feel-good. The Graveyard Book is charming without being twee, in fact in some points it is even quite scary. I’m not sure what age group it was intended for, I’m guessing 9-12, but I know the scene where Bod first meets the Sleer would have kept me awake a night or two when I was that age!
Nobody is a charming protagonist, even if he’s rather precocious. No four or five-year-old should be that well-spoken! But you have to love him, as he is brave, kind, stubborn and just a little naughty. I love his relationship with his adoptive parents and his guardian, Silas. Of the three, it’s Silas who has the largest role in the book and, seemingly, in Bod’s life. At the same time, he’s also the least predictable one, as he is able to actually leave the graveyard, unlike the rest of the occupants. As such, he is Bod’s link to the outside world and his ultimate protector. Bod clearly loves him like a father, but at the same time he doesn’t know how to express that, or rather they don’t express this in conventional ways, like hugging and such.
Each and every chapter, or story if you will, has its strong points. My favourite chapter would have to be the one where Bod goes to school and protects some of the littler kids from two bullies. Though the story that began it all, The Witch’s Headstone, comes a close second. Bod’s innocent friendship and his wanting the best for the titular witch, teaches both compassion and kindness. The concluding story is bittersweet, as is the chapter that precedes it. In the end, The Graveyard Book is about growing up and letting go and realising that every end is in itself a beginning. I sniffled my way through the last pages, but managed to close the book with a smile.
I really enjoyed The Graveyard Book. The illustrations in the book by Chris Riddell are very nice, comic and a little scary at the same time; the perfect complement to the text. I think this book was a great introduction to Gaiman’s work and I’m looking forward to reading it with Emma when she’s older!