October 2008

A boyhood beyond the pale

By Neil Gaiman
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While his parents and older sister are being murdered by a sinister man called Jack, a toddler boy creeps out of his English home and ends up in the nearby cemetery. There, the spirits of the boy's parents ask two of the cemetery's residents, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, to care for their son. Childless in life and the few hundred years they've been dead, the Owens proudly accept the challenge in The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman's creepy, adventurous, yet poignant novel of Nobody "Bod" Owens' coming of age.

The cemetery inhabitants grant Bod "Freedom of the Graveyard," allowing him to drift through walls and see in the dark, just as the dead do. But as Mrs. Owens suggests, it will take a graveyard to raise the boy and protect him from malicious spirits and particularly from Jack, who still wants the original, murderous task completed. Although the graveyard is a constant source of escapades, from the blood-red nights beyond the terrifying ghoul-gate to the midnight dance that joins the living and the dead, Bod wonders about life beyond the cemetery. His curiosity is piqued when he meets Scarlett, first as a young boy when her parents bring her to the nature reserve portion of the cemetery and later at 14 when she returns to the English town after her parents' divorce. Before Bod can leave the graveyard and become fully human, however, he must face his demons—Jack and his ring of cohorts—form his own identity and give heartbreaking good-byes to his childhood caretakers.

While The Graveyard Book may appear to center on the dead, this original, witty novel is an affirmation of life. Bod accepts his graveyard companions for what they are, while the spirits are often amazed by the boy's infinite potential. Readers will be equally astounded by Gaiman's sharp, spine-tingling storytelling.

Angela Leeper is an educational consultant and writer in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

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The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman
ISBN 9780060530921

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