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Bookmarks Issue: 
38-Jan-Feb-2009
By: 
Neil Gaiman
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Award Year: 
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A-The Graveyard BookNeil Gaiman is the award-winning author of the children’s book Coraline and the Sandman series of graphic novels, among other works (American Gods; Fragile Things, 4 of 5 Stars Selection Jan/Feb 2007; and Anansi Boys, 3.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2005).

The Story: The Story: After the violent murder of his parents and sister, the very human toddler Nobody Owens (or Bod) escapes and finds refuge in a cemetery. Kindly ghouls and werewolves soon take him under their wing, teach him their supernatural, not-quite-human ways, and instill in him a sense of family and duty. As he grows up, Bod learns to face the challenges of everyday cemetery life—from the horrors of a city of abandoned ghouls to not-so-nice bullies. However, Bod realizes that in order to escape the killer still at large and have his revenge on the man who murdered his family, he will have to leave the graveyard, navigate an even scarier human society, and experience life.
HarperCollins. 320 pages. $17.99. ISBN: 0060530928

Independent (UK) 5 of 5 Stars
"It’s carefully weighted between mystery and revelation, chase and contemplation, banality and outright lunacy: a breathless cross-country abduction by night. … This brief, dark, savoury adventure deserves to become a modern classic of children’s writing: it has more mystery, excitement and wisdom in a single chapter than all the soap-operatic dilemmas, empty acrobatics and moral dogmatism in those thousands of pages of Potter franchise." Tim Martin

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"Neil Gaiman dwells in nightmarish, fantastical worlds. … As in most fairy tales—and this is a fairy tale in novel form, with elements of Snow White to be found in Bod’s life—there’s deadly danger from evil-doers, but there’s humor amid the horror." Sharon Eberson

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"The model for the story is, of course, The Jungle Books, but Gaiman pays homage to Ray Bradbury, with perhaps a salute to Charles Addams tossed in for good measure. Bod’s coming of age has its moments of wonder, terror and tenderness, and Gaiman hits exactly the right notes every time." Michael Berry

Spectator (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"This is a beautifully constructed book, in which what appears to be a series of episodes in the boy’s life builds up to a structured plot with a satisfying denouement; and Bod is a charming hero, courageous, considerate and polite in the styles of many centuries. Most importantly, this is a book about growing up and about life." S. E. G. Hopkin

Times (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"[O]ne of the joys of reading Gaiman is how he subverts our expectations of magic, horror, fantasy and the mundane. … It is no coincidence that two of the classic children’s authors he most admires are Rudyard Kipling and P. L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, both of whom had a profound influence on The Graveyard Book." Amanda Craig

Critical Summary

Neil Gaiman’s fantasies have entranced both younger readers and adults; this gothic fantasy, a coming-of-age story modeled after The Jungle Book and with slight nods to Harry Potter, will appeal to all ages. By juxtaposing the world of the dead with the world of the living, Gaiman creates a fantastical world where the thoughtful protagonist comes to understand the power of family as he experiences the fear, pains, confusions, and joys of growing up. Critics praised each illustrated chapter as its own little gem, with moments both tender and terrifying—and each equally exciting. The Graveyard Book is sure to become a book to last the ages.