I read Coraline and did a review last month for it so I did not want the next book I read or the next book I reviewed to be another Neil Gaiman book but…I read another Neil Gaiman book and I’m going to review it!
Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Page Count: 295
Publication Date: September 30th, 2008
My Rating: 5 stars
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts.
There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.
This book starts in a way I never thought it would, with the man Jack who kills a family and goes to kill the last family member, a baby boy, who has escaped from his crib – and house – during the murders and walked all the way to an abandoned graveyard. This is already the first one and half pages of the book. I’m not entirely sure how I expected it to start but definitely not like that. The story follows the baby who survived from the age of a baby to 15 years old.
The characters were all amazing, even the side ones had lines that made you like them. The main character, the baby boy who ran away from home while the man Jack killed his family, was called Nobody Owens. At the graveyard, a ghost couple, Mr and Mrs Owens adopted him in a way. They named him Nobody because “he looks like nobody but himself” which I thought was sweet. His nickname is Bod, which everyone living he meets mistakes for Bob (like how everyone called Coraline Caroline). What I thought was great about Nobody Owens was that child characters are easy to make too immature and easily annoyed by all the others around him but Nobody was not like that at all. He was childlike, mature, curious and loved everything and everyone around him (for the most part), he was very fun to read.
There was also Silas, he neither dead nor living. He looks intimidating and wears all black. He was Nobody’s guardian, he could go to and from the graveyard as he pleased so he bought Nobody clothing, food and books. He also was the only person in the graveyard who could explain things to Nobody and answer his questions in a way that Nobody could understand. He was also one of my favourite characters, I really loved how he was written.
There are many other important characters who played a big part in Nobody’s growth and education and who he becomes but one of them is Scarlet, she’s his first living friend. She doesn’t have as many scenes as the other characters but she’s still very important to Nobody and to the story.
Of course, there’s the man Jack, who belongs to the organisation, The Jacks of All Trade…I don’t know what that organisation does exactly but they were pretty interesting to read, I enjoyed their chapters.
In order to keep Nobody Owens safe he cannot leave the graveyard, the man Jack will be able to sniff him out and find him, he also has people on the lookout for the boy who will call the man Jack when they find a boy fitting his description. So, Silas goes out to get him food and other things the living would need. The others living in the graveyard teach him lessons about what they know, such as fading, haunting and dreamwalking. It all works perfectly until he decides he wants to try a school for the living, which Silas agrees to. A lot of things go wrong then and exactly opposite to what Silas told Nobody to do to be safe outside the graveyard. It was fun to read about all the trouble he got into and how he got out of them, who helped him and how they helped him since everyone had their own little sort of magic and way of being.
This is a children’s middle-grade book so the writing is simple but lovely. Neil Gaiman is great at describing something wonderful and twisted in a way that works well for all ages. The beginning was shocking, the story that followed was loving and kind but also dangerous at times and scary for Nobody Owens. The ending was bitter-sweet and made me cry which was not something I was expecting because of what the story was like.
“I was now writing about being a parent, and the fundamental most comical tragedy of parenthood: that if you do your job properly, if you, as a parent, raise your children well, they won’t need you anymore. If you did it properly, they go away. And they have lives and they have families and they have futures.”Neil Gaiman during his Newbery Medal acceptance speech.
The pacing of the book was well done, there are time jumps since we go through so many years of his life in 295 pages but his age is always told at the beginning of the chapter so you’re aware of what’s happening to the boy and the world around him. This book was beautiful and emotional in a way I didn’t think it would go, not just because of the beginning but also because of Coraline. That book didn’t really get emotional, it just got crazy. This book did both and did them well.
I have been really enjoying his books and I own one more, The Sleeper and the Spindle. I’m pretty excited to read it because I’ve seen someone comparing it to gruesome original fairy tales which I love and also, of course, seeing more of Chris Riddell’s illustrations. I don’t think I have mentioned much of him during the other review if I did at all so I will now.
Like Coraline this book, or at least the edition I read, had a wonderful illustration by Chris Riddell before each chapter. There’d be a caption of which part of the chapter he had in mind when drawing the illustration and the illustrations are always black and white and have the same eerie feeling as the book was setting up. Sometimes illustrations feel like a separate piece of the books they’re in, they have a different style, a different feeling and feel sometimes too dark or too happy for the part they’re meant to be portraying but I haven’t felt that way with Chris Riddell’s illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s books. They fit the story and parts perfectly and really add to the story.
To anyone who hasn’t read this book yet, I recommend you do and to anyone who has, I recommend rereading it! Thank you for reading the review. 🍓