Book Review: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK – Written by Neil Gaiman and Illustrated by Dave McKean
Gaiman, Neil. 2008. Ill Dave McKean. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0060530921
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK opens with the tragic story of a small toddler whose parents were murdered in their bed by a man named Jack. This child (later named Nobody or “Bod”) escapes from the murderer by climbing out of his crib, crawling out of his house, and into the neighborhood graveyard. The kind-hearted ghosts who reside in the graveyard shelter him from the murderer and take him into their “home”. This award-winning tale “follows Bod’s progress as he grows from baby to teen, learning life’s lessons amid a cadre of the long-dead, ghouls, witches, intermittent human interlopers” (Broadhead n.d.).
Stories that revolve around “ghosts…and the supernatural are…very popular with young readers” (Vardell 2008, 210). However, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is not an ordinary ghost story. The initial frightening opening scene of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is soon replaced by a wonderfully tender cast of ghostly characters including “teachers, workers, wealthy prigs, romantics, pragmatists and even a few children” (Edinger 2009). The story’s tone rapidly shifts “elegantly from horror to suspense to domesticity” (Edinger 2009). This makes THE GRAVEYARD BOOK appropriate for younger tweens as well as teens.
As the book skips through Nobody’s childhood, he makes multiple mistakes and encounters numerous adventures rendering him an appealing and charming character. Gaiman paints a vivid picture of the graveyard residents as their introduction is tied in with charming antidotal stories of their former life. This book would make a positive addition to any library whose readers are ages 8 and up.
There are many teacher extension activities that can be found online for this Newberry Award winning novel. For instance, Scholastic has a THE GRAVEYARD BOOK teacher’s guide that includes writing prompts, discussion questions, vocabulary, and alternate extension activities. For a fun extension activity, there are several GRAVEYARD BOOK themed games on Neil Gaiman’s website for young readers called Mouse Circus (http://www.mousecircus.com/bookdetails.aspx?BookID=1).
Reviews: (taken from Neil Gaiman’s website at http://www.mousecircus.com/bookdetails.aspx?BookID=1)
Awards:(taken from Neil Gaiman’s website at http://www.mousecircus.com/bookdetails.aspx?BookID=1)
- Newbery Medal
- Carnegie Medal
- Hugo Award
- Locus Award
- Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book
- Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book
- Audiobook of the Year
- ALA Notable Children’s Book
- ALA Best Book for Young Adults
- ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice
- Horn Book Fanfare
- Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book
- Time Magazine Top Ten Fiction
- Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice
- New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
- New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age
- Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (Vermont)
What to Read to Next:
Gaiman, Neil. 2002. CORALINE. NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0380977789
Hahn, Mary Downing. 2010. THE GHOST OF CRUTCHFIELD HALL. Boston, MA: Clarion Books. ISBN 9780547385600
Broadhead, Hedi. “Editorial Review: Amazon.” Amazon. n.d. http://www.amazon.com/The-Graveyard-Book-Neil-Gaiman/dp/0060530944 (accessed April 24, 2014).
Edinger, Monica. “Children’s Books: Raised by Ghosts.” New York Times. Febuary 13, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/books/review/Edinger-t.html?_r=0 (accessed April 24, 2014).
Vardell, Sylvia M. Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2008.