“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman

I’ve been recently delving more in Neil Gaiman because I’ve always come across his books and I’ve heard nothing but praise for his work. And even though Sir Pratchett helped him write Good Omens, it was an incredible book (I do believe I reviewed it here), and created a need to read everything by both of them (I’ve read a few by Pratchett but I need more, I do believe I have reviews here for “colour of magic”).

I heard a lot about the Graveyard Book, enough that WITHOUT READING IT, we bought it for one of my husbands kids. But naturally …I wanted to read it too. So, we picked it up and it got tucked into my husbands reading shelf and forgotten. Yes, we both have shelves on our sides of the bed of books we want to read.

Fast forward to now when everything is closed and I’m running out of things to read. I happened to glance at my husbands side of the bed (he’s been out of town for work since January) and noticed two dusty covered books. A Dean Koontz, and this lovely gem. I grabbed it right away and set down to reading.

Immediately, like, literally first page, I’m thrown back to the 80s and early 90s to the era of Goosebumps, are you afraid of the dark (was that just a Canadian thing?), and tales from the crypt keeper. Back to a time where children’s shows were allowed to be creepy and scary, where they had deeper topics (granted, some kids shows are amazing for their messages) and pushed the buck a little further than they are allowed today.

And by that I mean, the book opens to a mysterious man wandering through the house of people he just murdered (a husband, wife, and elder daughter) looking for the toddler that escaped his notice. Down the hill from the house was a cemetery with an old crumbling chapel and the child wandered through the open door and down into the graveyard. The man Jack (that’s his name “the man jack”, he’s rarely referred to as just “Jack”) realized the child escaped and pursued him down into the graveyard.

The child is approached by two …residents of the graveyard, Mr and Mrs Owens, who notice something is amiss. The man is hunting around the graveyard, and is clearly chasing the child. Enveloping the toddler in her arms Mrs Owens disappears, taking the toddler with her. And yes, they are ghosts.

This starts the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens.

Bod is raised in the graveyard, taught ghostly magic (because the graveyard is protecting him, he is safe from all manner of ghosties, for the most part, and can fade, cause fear, dream walk, and several other tricks), and his mortal traits are looked after by his mysterious guardian Silas. Silas is neither alive nor dead, as are several of the characters that come in and out of Bods life.

The book is written almost like a TV series, each chapter is a different period in Bod’s life. Each chapter is essentially it’s own story, like Bod encountering ghouls, or finally entering the world to help buy a tombstone for a friend he made. Even though they are written like small segments, characters are consistent, and there is the constant threat that he isn’t allowed to leave the graveyard because outside of it they can’t protect him.

This is very clearly a 9 – 12 book, but Gaiman’s writing is amazing enough I think anyone can really enjoy it. It reminded me SO strongly of my childhood I almost got whiplash. I was the kid that would SEARCH for the horror and the creepy books, who snuck downstairs to watch Spawn when I was like 6. Some kids are just creepy, and this book embraces that, but also shows Bod conquering fear and showing that these ghosts, while scary, were once people. That the things that go bump in the night might just be a friend or ally in waiting if you take the time and patience to learn about them. Don’t judge the witch in the tree, or the scary noise in the corner of a dark room.

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