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April 3, 2012

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I just finished the children's horror book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. For those of you who are not familiar with the book, it is about an orphaned toddler boy who is raised in a graveyard by a bunch of ghosts. Below is my official (i.e. posted on Goodreads and Amazon) review of the book.



I will just say upfront that I started this book by almost stopping after the first chapter. The target readership is kids between ten and twelve, and the first chapter starts off with a fairly graphic description of a triple murder and the toddler (later called Bod for "nobody") escaping the aggressor. Gaiman even goes so far as to describe how the man wipes the blood off his knife--kind of heavy for a middle reader book if you ask me.

Fortunately I pushed on and continued reading. The rest of Gaiman's book is rewarding. At first I was skeptical that Gaiman could pull off a compelling story about a boy who is raised by a group of ghosts in a graveyard. I was afraid the story would be too off-the-wall for readers to relate to it, and fortunately I was wrong. Gaiman's ghosts have diverse personalities (as they should) and the boy does grapple with some unique challenges brought about by his unique upbringing. At the same time, though, the whole book does not center of the uniqueness of the boy's upbringing, with many normal challenges of growing up thrown in.

I absolutely loved the level of imagination in Gaiman's world of ghosts and other paranormal creatures. Kids should be fascinated by the level of intrigue with ghoul gates and alternate worlds, the Sleer that lives deep below the graveyard and the mystery that surrounds the boy's guardian, Silas. The mystery of the man who killed the boy's family and what he is all about is compelling as well, and it kept me turning the pages rapidly to pursue the ending and a sense of resolution.

Gaiman does deliver a degree of resolution, but like any good author he does not spoon-feed all the answers and tie up all the loose ends. He does leave things tidier at the end than with a book that is written for adults, but kids probably will finish the book with some unanswered questions. Gaiman definitely leaves the option of a future book open, and as a reader I would be open to reading more about Bod and his future adventures.

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