Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Graveyard Book

Gaiman, Neil. 2008. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. Ill. by Dave McKean. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060530938 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-9]

In this supernatural fantasy and Newbery winner, Neil Gaiman introduces the story of Nobody Owens, an orphan being raised by ghosts in a not-so-quiet graveyard. Nobody, or Bod for short, is the only living soul in the cemetery, but he is not alone. The protective ghosts that populate the graveyard do more than care for and educate Bod, they are also hiding the boy from the man that killed his family and is intent on finishing the job.

Dave McKean’s black and white drawings capture the dark, and at times terrifying, mood of the story. When Bod’s safe existence in the graveyard is in jeopardy, the author’s sense of urgency combines well with the stark illustrations to portray the danger. The fast-paced plot and clever dialogue will intrigue readers looking for a more unusual mystery. Bod’s indecision about his future, and longing for acceptance and a place to belong, relates well with young adults.

Compare this novel with Gaiman’s other fantasy works, such as CORALINE, for a study of the author’s writing style. His unique story plots and vivid character developments could launch a discussion of the characteristics of the fantasy genre. This book would also make an excellent literature circle or book club choice.

Other fantasy novels featuring ghosts:
Hahn, Mary Downing. ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES. ISBN 9780618854677
Jenkins, A.M. BEATING HEART: A GHOST STORY. ISBN 9780060546076
Sauer, Julia L. FOG MAGIC. ISBN 9780670323036

By Kimberly C. Kinnaird

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