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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Today, as a nice follow-up to ghosties, I am reviewing a book I read a little bit ago, that's got a fair cast of ghosties: The Graveyard Book.
The Graveyard Book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The graveyard book tells the story of Nobody Owens (called Bod), who escapes to a graveyard as a toddler after his family is murdered. Bod is given the freedom of the graveyard, allowing him to pass freely through the graveyard and learn the ways of the ghost inhabitants who are helping to raise him. This graveyard family teaches Bod how to see at night, to Haunt, Fade and Dreamwalk; they protect him from the outside world, and from the man who killed his family and would like to finish the job. But they cannot protect him forever, and Bod knows that one day he will have to confront the world and the dangers in it, embracing his destiny for good or bad.

I was really excited to read this book, and even though I was in the middle of another, I found myself repeatedly picking The Graveyard Book up and opening to the brilliant first page. I finally caved in and set my other book aside so I could read this, and at first I was entirely disappointed and didn’t think I was going to like the book at all. I found Bod’s toddler years to be only tolerable. There was occasional cuteness, but nothing to hook me and make me want to keep reading (aside from the fantastic Gorey-esque illustrations).

That all changed when Bod went to Ghûlheim; from then on I was absolutely hooked. The writing is clever and has a certain brightness mingled with the dark of the story. The book is sprinkled with interesting characters (with amusing epitaphs). The worlds Gaiman created are vivid and intriguing, with interesting and original takes on familiar mythology. Bod’s journey is relatable, even in all of its surrealness, and the overall message is incorporated well without being didactic. This is the sort of story I know I would have become completely lost in and obsessed with as a child.

A warning to parents that there are some dark themes and scary elements, but overall I would recommend this to any child/young teen, especially those who like fantasy and darker elements. This would also make a fun read-aloud for parents and children, or a classroom, and the illustrations add to the story immensely. I would rate this closer to a 4.5.

View all my reviews >>

Bonus Material:
I have two pretty awesome things for ya off the bat:
This awesome trailer for the book, narrated be Neil:

And this interview about the book with Wired:

And then some standard bonus material fare:
I had a talk with Gaiman (that makes me sound so special; I should say my Goodreads group had a talk with Gaiman, where he took our questions and was awesome, and I razzed him for mentioning floppy disks), and I asked him if he often got negative responses from parents on the themes in his work. You'll notice I mentioned that in my review as a head's up, and I asked him because I had a neighbor growing up who insisted my mom not let me read such scary things, because I was sure to grow up morbid; frankly, I think it's ridiculous. I think Neil did, too. His response:
"I think the parents who would disapprove of their offspring reading my books are not the kind of people who talk to authors."
Right on, Neil.

I bought my copy before the awards rained down, but TGB won a Newbery, Hugo and Locus (best YA) award, as well as being shortlisted for the World Fantasy and Locus (best sci fi) awards. Pretty snazzy.

Go here for some utter awesomeness: tour readings, weekly excerpts of the Q&A sessions, all courtesy of Mr. Bobo's Remarkable Mouse Circus (Gaiman's site for young readers) ; there is a ton of stuff from all his juv/ya books, including wallpapers, book trailers, podcasts, general greatness. It just gets better and better, so stop back every now and again.

Visits The Graveyard Book's site to see the fabulous illustrations and read up on the book and its awesomeness. Once upon a time, there was even a link to linited edition signed copies, but alas, they are no more.

(10 points to the first one who can tell me where Mr. Bobo's Remarkable Mouse Circus comes from...said points may be completely nonsense (though you can brag about them), or they may just come in handy later on...)


  1. I love the Graveyard Book! I'm so happy you enjoyed it. I got to see Neil Gaiman read the first half of the seventh chapter in Santa Monica when the book came out and it was amazing!

    Anyway, Mr. Bobo's Remarkable Mouse Circus is from Coraline. :)

  2. wow sounds awesome! honestly I am totally guilty of judging books by covers, thanks for the review, I'll check it out.

  3. A fantastic review of a wonderful book. Well done! I appreciate the parental warning simply because I try to do the same thing, especially with scary books. Kids are way too different and what might be a fun thrilling scare to one could induce nightmares in the other. I never want to be the one who encouraged someone to pick up a book like this for their kids and then find out that they are upset at me.

    Very fun that you were able to participate in that talk with Gaiman!

  4. I was in two minds about whether to give The Graveyard Book a try. I thought it would be too quirky for me, but your review has definitely made me reconsider. It sounds darker than I expected, and somewhat intriguing. Great review!

  5. It is fairly dark, yes. But it has great lightness too, really god contrast.

    And, yes, Titania 86, it is from Coraline. 10 points for you. I am making a note of that.

  6. I have a Neil Gaiman book on my list. This one sounds pretty awesome, so I'll definitely have to add it as well. (:

    Great review. Before I go, I wanted to let you know I left you an award on my blog. (:

  7. i love neil! i saw him last year when he was promoting graveyard book and he was so entertaining to listen too. still have my copy to read which i'm going to do for part of my r.i.p. challenge. looking forward.

  8. I also loved this book. Thanks for posting the trailer and sharing Gaiman's response to parents. I often wonder how authors feel about parents who challenge their books.

  9. I love your "bonus materials" they add a lot to your reviews.
    I felt the same way about this book. For about ten pages I was like, wtf? And then I just went with it and loved it.
    Great review!

  10. i really loved this book. i was intrigued from the first sentence and illustration.
    i love how thorough your review is and the bonus materials at the end.

  11. I read this book this summer and liked it. I didn't LOVE it but I enjoyed it. Thanks for the review.

  12. So I have a confession to make ***ducks underneath desk*** I've never read Neil Gaiman! I know, I know, what kind of avid reader can I be if I've never read Neil Gaiman? So many of his books are on my TBR list, they just seem to always get booted down in favor of other ones. I've heard a lot of good reviews about this one though, so maybe I should look and see if the library has it next time I'm there...

    Natalie @ Mindful Musings

  13. I'll be honest here (set phasers to stun please,) I didn't really see what all the fuss was about with this book. I loved the illustrations and I though the story was decent, but it wasn't the most earth-shattering thing I've ever read by far. Just not my thing I guess, but I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  14. I wielded my power as 'assistant librarian in charge of the English section' (that title is longer than my work hours) in order to buy this book in English for our local library.

    But I am cautious about reading it as I didn't like American Gods at all.

    Maybe i will give it a chance

  15. If you do, stick with it. The beginning was blah for me, but it gets really fun and good.

  16. Great review! I have seen a fair few reviews for this book, but I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I should get it. It just doesn't grab me, even though Neil Gaiman is considered a literary god by some. I think I'll wait; I have Stardust on my shelf to read, and maybe I'll pick this up after I've read that - if I like him enough.

  17. I think Stardust is just okay, so I wouldn't judge completely on that.

  18. Oh really? Sucks. Hmm. I'll just have to decide at some point, I guess.

  19. This was the first Gaiman book I read. The first lines were among the best I have ever read. I thought is slowed a bit and I would have liked more from the ending but overall I really enjoyed it. His writing is fabulous!

  20. I just finished _The Graveyard Book_ and it is one of the finest pieces of writing I've read in years. Simultaneously heartfelt, funny, and creepy, it's my favorite work by Gaiman thus far.

    View this site for Fishing Lodge Alaska


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