Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fantasy - The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. Neil Gaiman. Ill. by Dave McKean. New York: HarperCollins Pub., 2008. ISBN 9780060530938.

Neil Gaiman has written a ghost story that is also a story about the power of family ties. Nobody Owens is raised by a cemetery of ghosts when his real family is murdered one night. He is given the nickname Bod along with the Freedom of the Graveyard, which enables him to pass through solid things, see the ghosts in the cemetery, and see in the dark. He is tutored by Silas, who although it is never explicitly stated, seems to be a vampire, and Miss Lupescu who turns out to be a werewolf. His ghostly mother and father love him, and he has the normal adventures any boy growing up in a cemetery would have. Despite his happy life, Bod still can't stop wondering what's outside the cemetery fence. Bod comes to realize that since he's still alive, he won't be able to stay in the graveyard forever. One day, he learns about the man who killed his family and is still looking for Bod. Unfortunately, venturing outside the fence brings Bod face to face with Jack Frost, the killer. He manages to use the Freedom of the Graveyard to escape Jack and his cohorts safely, but over the next few months, Bod comes to realize it's time for him to venture out into the world. The confrontation with Jack Frost gave him the confidence he needs to succeed in the outside world. Not only have his ghostly parents learned to let him go, but Bod has learned how to let go of them as well and venture out on his own.

One style technique of Gaiman's I especially enjoyed was how the ghosts have lived their mortal lives from ancient unknown times to about 80 years before the story takes place. They all use different colloquialisms and grammar appropriate to their lifetimes, and it's funny to read how Bod switches back and forth to address each ghost respectfully using his or her own criteria of what respect consisted of when he or she was still alive.

Awards and Honors:
• Battle of the (Kids') Books, 2009 Nominee United States
• Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, 2009 Honor   Book Fiction and Poetry United States
• Cuffies: Children's Booksellers Choose Their Favorite (and not-so-favorite) Books of
  the Year, 2008 Honorable Mention Best Novel for Young Readers That Adults
  Would Love If They Knew About It United States
• Cybils, 2008 Winner Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade) United States
• Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award, 2009 Winner United States
• Indies Choice Book Award, 2009 Winner Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book United
• John Newbery Medal, 2009 Winner United States
• Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2008 Runner Up Young Adult Literature United

Holly Koelling (Booklist, Sep. 15, 2008 (Vol. 105, No. 2))
Starred Review* While a highly motivated killer murders his family, a baby, ignorant of the horrific goings-on but bent on independence, pulls himself out of his crib and toddles out of the house and into the night. This is most unfortunate for the killer, since the baby was his prime target. Finding his way through the barred fence of an ancient graveyard, the baby is discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a stable and caring couple with no children of their own—and who just happen to be dead. After much debate with the graveyard’s rather opinionated denizens, it is decided that the Owenses will take in the child. Under their care and the sponsorship of the mysterious Silas, the baby is named “Nobody” and raised among the dead to protect him from the killer, who relentlessly pursues him. This is an utterly captivating tale that is cleverly told through an entertaining cast of ghostly characters. There is plenty of darkness, but the novel’s ultimate message is strong and life affirming. Although marketed to the younger YA set, this is a rich story with broad appeal and is highly recommended for teens of all ages.

Nicola Turner (Children's Literature)
Gaiman, famous for his creepy and often scary tales, Coraline and The Wolves in the Wall, has created in his new novel something that is neither creepy nor scary, despite its chilling first chapter and spectral cast of characters. This is a story about the power of family--whatever form it takes--and the potential of a child who is raised with love and a sense of duty. Nobody Owens (Bod) is adopted by a couple of ghosts after narrowly escaping death at the hands of the mysterious man who murdered the rest of his family. After much debate, he is granted the “Freedom of the Graveyard” by its long dead inhabitants. His guardian, Silas, who is neither dead nor alive, brings him food and ensures he is educated in the ways of the dead and the living. Of course, life for young Owens is not all smooth sailing. Bod must face the ghoul gate, the ancient force that waits in the oldest grave, and the mysterious man who still searches for the boy he failed to kill. The story of an orphaned boy being hunted down by a secret society and protected by magic sounds familiar, but while the story of Harry Potter resonates here, the sympathetic, flawed, and ultimately very human character of Bod saves this from being merely a reshaping of Rowling’s epic tale. In fact, Gaiman’s title is an homage to Kipling’s The Jungle Book. I cannot help thinking, however, that this novel should be the first in a series. There are too many questions unanswered. While I never really believed that Bod was ever in any real danger in the graveyard, a boy who sets off in to the world of the living with his “eyes and heart wide open” can only be headed for uncertainty.

1. This novel lends itself well to Readers' Theatre.
2. If possible, visit a nearby cemetery to make gravestone rubbings like Mr. Frost
    was doing when Scarlett first met him in Chapter 7.
3. How many diffferent Jacks in the story can the students identify? For example,
   Jack Frost, Jack of all trades, Jack Dandy. Can the students come up with any
   more Jack names that would work in this story, such as Jack Sprat?

No comments:

Post a Comment