THE GRAVEYARD BOOK – Neil Gaiman

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After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages. – Goodreads description

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I knew I loved this book, but until I picked it up and began re-reading it, I had forgotten exactly why.

Gaiman has a very special gift. He is able to write a children’s book that is horrifying in subject matter, but in such a way that it is still appropriate for kids. How? I’m not even entirely sure. It’s quite possibly magic. This is the talent that made Roald Dahl’s books so enchanting – and so beloved by children and adults alike. 

Everything about this book is beautiful. The story never drags, it draws the reader in and is full of brilliant twists and adventures. The characters are likewise finely-drawn and, by the end of the book, heartbreakingly real. I particularly loved the main character, in no small part because he has my favourite name for a fictional character ever: Nobody Owens (or Bod for short). 

From the first page, my heart broke for this tiny boy, who escaped death purely by chance, and who was suddenly all alone in a world he didn’t know or understand. And with a killer searching for him, no less. That put me firmly on his side. But as he grows and learns about the world from his set of unlikely (and unlively) guardians, he becomes an incredibly sympathetic character. Bod is an intelligent, introspective boy. He curiously explores the world around him (small as it is, and limited) and never grows tired of learning. 

Unfortunately some of the things he has to learn are incredibly painful – and dangerous. Like why he isn’t allowed to venture outside of the graveyard, lest The Man Jack (the vicious murderer who killed his family and is still searching for the one that got away) finds him. 

What blows me away about this book is how Gaiman took a setting normally reserved for horror stories and made it feel not only unthreatening, but cosy and homey. It’s a wonderful example of how the familiar becomes safe – even if the familiar is a graveyard populated with multi-centarian ghosts, creatures of the night and shape-shifters. Despite being raised in such odd circumstances, Bod grows up a remarkably normal boy in many respects. He hates eating weird food. He sneaks out. He has to deal with awkward crushes. He yearns to see more of the world than his own back yard. He has parents, friends, and pets. By the end of the book I found myself wishing I knew where Bod’s graveyard was so that I could visit it, certain that I’d feel right at home.

This ranks among my all-time favourite reads. It’s a book that I can go back to again and again without diminishing its initial magic, and that always evokes a wide range of emotions. Rarely have I loved fictional characters so much. Bod and Roald Dahl’s Matilda are two of my favourite literary children. 


Everyone should read this book at least once, but I’d argue that it’s even better if you read it once a year. For the rest of your life. 

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Book Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Edition: Hardback
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Released: October 1, 2008
Genre: Fiction, Children’s, Adventure
Pages: 312
Date Read: October 30-November 8, 2013
Rating: 9.5/10

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