Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I have read my first book of this summer vacation and it wasn't one of the books I had stacked up on a shelf waiting to be read, instead it was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I had not heard of this book before but my daughter had borrowed it from the library because it was listed on her school's summer reading list. She is going to be a fifth grader next year. Hannah started reading the book, but said it was too scary and she did not want to read it at all anyore. So I grabbed it to see what the fuss was about.

The book starts out with a hand in the darkness carrying a knife.
"If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately."
The knife we learn is wet with blood.
"The hunt was almost over. He had left the woman in her bed, the man on the bedroom floor, the other child in her brightly colored bedroom...That only left the little one, a baby barely a toddler to take care of. One more and the task would be done."
By the second page of the book we have the murder of a family, including a child, and the attempted murder of a baby. I agree with my daughter that this is a scary and shocking start to book and something that many kids will not want to read. The book is recommended for 5-8 graders.

I kept reading. The boy escapes to a graveyard where he is brought up by its inhabitants: ghosts, witches, werewolves, the undead (a vampire maybe?), and other sorts that train and teach him in the ways of the living and the dead. The boy is named "Nobody", Bod for short, and is kept safe and sound from the scary world of the living in the confines of the graveyard. We eventually learn that the murderer of his family is still looking for him in order to complete the task and Bod must use the resources around him to stand up to and destroy the evil man. There is an underground hidden chamber with a giant snake-like creature and enough characters and plot twists to make you think of another boy who faced similar difficulties with the help of some other similar and  unusual characters named Harry Potter.

In the end it is an enjoyable read. When Bod talks to his guardian about his "dead" friends he is told,
"They are. They are for the most part done with the world. You are not. You're alive, Bod. That means that you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential."
The books ends on a much happier note than how it begins, with Bod entering the land of the living rather than how it began with his entering into the land of the dead. If you enjoy well written books, then this might be a book worth reading, however it is not for everyone and my daughter will be just content to just leave The Graveyard Book alone. I enjoyed the book and I think plenty of my students would  too, but it is not a book I would use as a read-aloud in the classroom.

NEIL GAIMAN talks about The Graveyard Book

You can find videos of Neil Gaiman reading the entire book as well as answering questions about the book at his website.

Winner of the 2009 Newbery Medal and Hugo Award
At each stop of his 9-city national tour in 2008, master storyteller Neil Gaiman read one chapter from The Graveyard Book and answered audience questions. Watch his tour readings at his website and hear the captivating book in its entirety. Then, watch exclusive tour A videos each week throughout the month of September leading up to the anniversary of The Graveyard Book.

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