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The graveyard book
Book
2008
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  New York Times Review

WITH best-selling books for adults and children - including "Coraline," a brand-new animated movie - Neil Gaiman has carved out a passionate following in the world of fairy tale and fantasy. Now his latest novel for children, "The Graveyard Book," has won a top literary honor as well: this year's Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children's literature. After the prize was announced last month, a debate ensued among teachers, librarians and critics about whether the selection of a popular author was a departure for the Newbery, one of the most prestigious prizes in children's books - and, if so, whether it was a welcome one. Gaiman himself seemed surprised by the honor. "There are books that are best sellers and books that are winners," he said in an interview with The New York Times. But none of this will matter to readers for "The Graveyard Book," by turns exciting and witty, sinister and tender, shows Gaiman at the top of his form. The story opens with a pretty terrifying situation: a man has slaughtered a family in the middle of the night, all save a toddler who escapes unnoticed, walking out the front door and away from the mayhem. (Parents may worry about the violence, but they shouldn't. The action isn't described, and the fourth-grade class I read the book to had no problem whatsoever.) Up the hill trots the toddler, to a graveyard full of ghosts who take him in. The tone shifts elegantly from horror to suspense to domesticity, and by the end of the first chapter Gaiman has established the graveyard as the story's center. Within its reassuringly locked gates, the boy finds a safe and cozy place to grow up. (Gaiman has said that "The Jungle Book" was one of his influences.) Among the dead are teachers, workers, wealthy prigs, romantics, pragmatists and even a few children - a village ready to raise a living child. And they do, ably led by Silas, an enigmatic character who is not really one of them, being not quite dead and not quite living. In this moonlit place, the boy - who is given the name Nobody Owens, or Bod for short - has adventures, makes friends (not all of them dead), and begins to learn about his past and consider his future. Along the way, he encounters hideous ghouls, a witch, middle school bullies and an otherworldly fraternal order that holds the secret to his family's murder. When he is 12 things change, and the novel's momentum and tension pick up as he learns why he's been in the graveyard all this time and what he needs to do to leave. While "The Graveyard Book" will entertain people of all ages, it's especially a tale for children. Gaiman's remarkable cemetery is a place that children more than anyone would want to visit. They would certainly want to look for Silas in his chapel, maybe climb down (if they were as brave as Bod) to the oldest burial chamber, or (if they were as reckless) search for the ghoul gate. Children will appreciate Bod's occasional mistakes and bad manners, and relish his good acts and eventual great ones. The story's language and humor are sophisticated, but Gaiman respects his readers and trusts them to understand. I read the last of "The Graveyard Book" to my class on a gloomy day. For close to an hour there were the sounds of only rain and story. In this novel of wonder, Neil Gaiman follows in the footsteps of long-ago storytellers, weaving a tale of unforgettable enchantment. Monica Edinger is a teacher at the Dalton School in New York City.

  Library Journal Review

A baby survives the killing of his family by a mysterious assassin. He crawls to a nearby graveyard and is adopted by the assortment of spooks who occupy the place, soon to include his own recently murdered parents. There he is christened with a new name: Nobody, or Bod for short. Under the watchful tutelage of the dead, Bod learns reading, writing, history, and a few other useful skills-haunting and "disapparating" [disappearing from a location and reappearing in another]. Why It Is a Best: An elegant combination of Gaiman's masterly storytelling and McKean's lovely drawings, this book also works as a series of independent but connected short stories set two years apart, following Bod from age two to 16. Why It Is for Us: In interviews, Gaiman has said that this book took him years to write, and it was worth the wait. Imagine Kipling's The Jungle Book set among a forest of graves. A complete recording of Gaiman reading the book is available on his web site; see also LJ's video with the author from BEA 2008.-Angelina Benedetti, King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

*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.--Koelling, Holly Copyright 2008 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Wistful, witty, wise--and creepy. Gaiman's riff on Kipling's Mowgli stories never falters, from the truly spine-tingling opening, in which a toddler accidentally escapes his family's murderer, to the melancholy, life-affirming ending. Bod (short for Nobody) finds solace and safety with the inhabitants of the local graveyard, who grant him some of the privileges and powers of the dead--he can Fade and Dreamwalk, for instance, but still needs to eat and breathe. Episodic chapters tell miniature gems of stories (one has been nominated for a Locus Award) tracing Bod's growth from a spoiled boy who runs away with the ghouls to a young man for whom the metaphor of setting out into the world becomes achingly real. Childhood fears take solid shape in the nursery-rhyme-inspired villains, while heroism is its own, often bitter, reward. Closer in tone to American Gods than to Coraline, but permeated with Bod's innocence, this needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child. (Illustrations not seen.) (Fantasy. 10 & up) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
<p>The original hardcover edition of a perennial favorite, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which has sold more than one million copies and is the only novel to win both the Newbery Medal and the Carnegie Medal.</p> <p>Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place--he's the only living resident of a graveyard. Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians' time as well as their ghostly teachings--such as the ability to Fade so mere mortals cannot see him.</p> <p>Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead?</p> <p>The Graveyard Book is the winner of the Newbery Medal, the Carnegie Medal, the Hugo Award for best novel, the Locus Award for Young Adult novel, the American Bookseller Association's "Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book," a Horn Book Honor, and Audio Book of the Year.</p>
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