It takes a Graveyard to raise a Child, or my review of The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean (illustrator) 

Publisher: Harpercollins

Publication Date: September 20th, 2008

Format: Kindle E-Book

right corner red


After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

left corner blue

I’m not really sure I can classify a Middle Grades book as ‘cute’ if it begins with a triple homicide…but if I can, then the Graveyard Book is a very cute book. Typical of Neil Gaiman’s creepy juvenile-reader books, it’s a clever little book for all ages. 

The story of a boy raised among ghosts in a graveyard, it is similar to Coraline. We begin with Nobody, ‘Bod’ Owens, and his strange upbringing–since his family was murdered, the graveyard inhabitants have agreed to raise him as best they can. And, since the graveyard inhabitants are all ghosts (and one ghoul), the story ends up being sweet and funny with some occasional more serious parts. In other words, a classic Gaiman.

Despite the fact that I am not the ideal age group, I enjoyed the story. I mean, it’s not hard to like it. I appreciate how Gaiman really thought about what would happen to a child raised in a graveyard–how would he learn the things he needed to, like the Alphabet? What about clothes? And then the more serious things, like what happens when the kid gets older and starts wondering why he’s raised by a bunch of ghosts? What happens when he knows every inch of the graveyard and wants to explore the rest of the town, but can’t?

In a way, it’s a bit about growing up–the joys and the dangers, the sense of slowly gaining more of an understanding of the world, the slow dark transition into adulthood. Most of the things that Bod deals with would seem perfectly normal to any child of the same age group. But it’s also got quirks, little fun sections. I truly enjoyed seeing Bod grow up, and learn both compassion and practicality and something about love.

I hope that, someday, there’s a book with Bod as an adult, or at least older, and we get to see how he’s turned out. Because, in typical Neil Gaiman fashion, he’s not a perfect kid–there’s a callousness to him that indicates maybe he doesn’t really understand mortals. Natural, since he never grew up with them, but a bit dark. And, you know, the triple homicide is also a bit grim. But I’m waiting on an older Bod to appear in another story–or maybe not. I think the story is enough on its own, without a need for a sequel or a desperate-feeling extension of the plot.

If you like what you read above, please follow using one (or more) of the social media sites in the sidebar!

Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

Comments · 4

    1. Yes, exactly! I love how unconventional, and yet perfectly wonderful, Neil Gaiman’s books for children and juveniles are.

  1. All while reading this book I kept thinking how different it was from anything else I ever read. I kept waiting for the point of the book to be made, for something to tie everything together. Then… BAM! It all makes sense. But even before that point, I was still captivated by Bod and his surrogate family. A brilliant book.

    1. I have to agree with you, Caroline! It’s a meandering sort of book, but really beautifully written. And I love Bod as much as any character written, honestly.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: