The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

Publishers Weekly : Starred Review. A lavish middle-grade novel, Gaiman's first since Coraline, this gothic fantasy almost lives up to its extravagant advance billing. The opening is enthralling: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. Evading the murderer who kills the rest of his family, a child roughly 18 months old climbs out of his crib, bumps his bottom down a steep stairway, walks out the open door and crosses the street into the cemetery opposite, where ghosts take him in. What mystery/horror/suspense reader could stop here, especially with Gaiman's talent for storytelling? The author riffs on the Jungle Book, folklore, nursery rhymes and history; he tosses in werewolves and hints at vampires—and he makes these figures seem like metaphors for transitions in childhood and youth. As the boy, called Nobody or Bod, grows up, the killer still stalking him, there are slack moments and some repetition—not enough to spoil a reader's pleasure, but noticeable all the same. When the chilling moments do come, they are as genuinely frightening as only Gaiman can make them, and redeem any shortcomings. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal : Gr 5–8—Somewhere in contemporary Britain, "the man Jack" uses his razor-sharp knife to murder a family, but the youngest, a toddler, slips away. The boy ends up in a graveyard, where the ghostly inhabitants adopt him to keep him safe. Nobody Owens, so named because he "looks like nobody but himself," grows up among a multigenerational cast of characters from different historical periods that includes matronly Mistress Owens; ancient Roman Caius Pompeius; an opinionated young witch; a melodramatic hack poet; and Bod's beloved mentor and guardian, Silas, who is neither living nor dead and has secrets of his own. As he grows up, Bod has a series of adventures, both in and out of the graveyard, and the threat of the man Jack who continues to hunt for him is ever present. Bod's love for his graveyard family and vice versa provide the emotional center, amid suspense, spot-on humor, and delightful scene-setting. The child Bod's behavior is occasionally too precocious to be believed, and a series of puns on the name Jack render the villain a bit less frightening than he should be, though only momentarily. Aside from these small flaws, however, Gaiman has created a rich, surprising, and sometimes disturbing tale of dreams, ghouls, murderers, trickery, and family.—Megan Honig, New York Public Library

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