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Book Review: The Graveyard Book

“It takes a graveyard to raise a child.”

This book has been reviewed by Jess as part of the Six Book Challenge


In the middle of the night, a man Jack visits the house, intent on killing all occupants. Whilst he deals with the mother, father and eldest child, the baby of the house escapes his cot, and crawls into the local graveyard.

And that is how Nobody Owens comes to live in the graveyard. Brought up by ghosts and given the freedom of the graveyard, his life gets off to a very abnormal start as he grows up and learns the lessons of the dead.

Think of the jungle book, but replace the animals with ghosts, ghouls, werewolves and other such supernatural creatures and you have the idea of The Graveyard Book (QUICK READS 823.91 GAI). Gaiman reportedly came up with the idea when he saw his son riding his bike through a graveyard and noticed how comfortable the boy looked, not disturbed by the amount of death around him. Originally conceived in 1985, Gaiman kept putting off the book, deeming himself ‘not a good enough writer’ until 2008 when it was finally published.

The waiting seems to have paid off, as the book was nominated for seven awards and won five of them including the Newbery Medal and Hugo Award for Best Novel. The illustrator, Chris Riddell, was also nominated for his works in the book, making it one of the first where both author and illustrator were nominated for their work.


Illustrator Chris Riddell’s impression of author Neil Gaiman

Although slow in pacing, the rich and imaginative world that Nobody, or Bod for short, inhabits more than makes up for it, with Gaiman’s stunning ability to write both dark and sinister work whilst still be appropriate for younger audience shines through in this book. The setting of the graveyard is complex and well researched, with little details being pulled through all the way back to Roman times. The characters are well-created, from the not-dead-or-alive Silas, who steps up as Bod’s guardian, to the sometimes tutor Ms Lupescu, who rescues Bod when he goes exploring where he really shouldn’t (he is a growing boy after all, and growing boys like nothing more than to get into trouble) and even the witch Liza, who he meets when he goes to the wrong side of the graveyard and strikes up a complex and intriguing friendship with.

In the background we constantly have the threat of the man Jack, who murdered Bod’s family when he was a baby. Although the ghosts try and keep Bod in the graveyard where they can protect him and keep him safe, he has several misadventures outside in the real world, where the man Jack is still looking for him. Aimed at younger readers, the reason why Jack and his secret society are hunting Bod is a little nebulous, but he does keep up the dark theme that is so excellently woven into the story.

Overall the book is a magnificent example of dark fantasy, and has been enjoyed by many different people, not just the young audience it was intended for.

If you enjoyed The Graveyard Book, try:


Coraline (QUICK READS 823.91 GAI) This book was Gaiman’s first stunning dark children’s fantasy. Coraline has moved into a new house, which she’s not thrilled about, and wishes that her parents would be just a little more persuaded by what she wanted. Then she finds an old door in the corner of the house, which at first leads to nothing but a brick wall. But when she finds the right key, it leads her to a house that looks very much like the new one she’s moved into. Even her parents are there, except that these parents have buttons for eyes…and there’s a pair for Coraline too.


A witch knows how to travel in style- Michelle Pfeiffer in Stardust

Stardust (DVD LOBBY 791.43) has been described as a true adult fairy tale. Tristan Thorn lives ina small town called Wall, located right next to an imposing stone barrier which separates the town from the grassy meadow on the other side and is guarded night and day. Desperate to win the heart of the women he has fallen madly in love with, he vows to bring her the fallen star which landed over the other side of the wall. This vow takes him into a land that is fantastic, strange and dangerous beyond his imagination.

six book challenge

For more information on the Six Book Challenge, check out our blog post here or speak to staff in the Information Store.


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