Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

After his family is killed by a mysterious assassin, a toddler wanders into a graveyard, where he is adopted by a ghost couple named Owens, and formally given the Right of the Graveyard by all, which means he can fade from view, walk through walls, and so on. Under the tutelage of the mysterious “neither living nor dead” Silas, the young Nobody Owens, as he is called, sees the underworld of goblins, werewolves, and macabre dances, as well as the more prosaic world of school bullies and money-grubbing adults. Eventually, however, he grows old enough to seek vengeance upon the man Jack who killed his family, and no one, not even Silas, can dissuade him.

This 2009 Newbery winner is an amazingly inventive riff on Kipling’s The Jungle Books, not only in its overarching theme of the orphan brought up among powerful non-humans but including the scenes of the buried treasure that brings death, the mindless hooting greedy apes (here cast as goblins) who have pretenses to greatness, and so on. But you don't need to have read and enjoyed the Kipling to be amazed and delighted by this dark, thrilling tale. With black humor, real suspense, a righteous hero the reader can't help but cheer for, all told as if through the innocent eyes of a child (only a child is innocent enough to both believe in and to not be afraid of ghosts, after all), this is both a brilliant homage and a wonderful adventure book.

five stars


  1. Gaiman's a cool guy, but I've read only his comic book stuff.

    BTW, I was on JEOPARDY! and won one game in 1998.

  2. Well, his books are very good as well. You should read them. Especially this one.

    I know. I saw the link on your blog. Show-off! Just kidding.