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The Graveyard Book

A fantasy novel for young adults written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean.

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What's in The Graveyard Book?

  • Aug 30, 2010
Pros: Interesting idea.

Cons: Weak storyline.

The Bottom Line: If this were a meal, it would be missing a lot of meat and potatoes.

Sometimes I wonder if I must be missing something when it comes to some of the books I read.  I enjoyed Hyperion while everyone around me went nuts trying to read it.  American Gods grated endlessly on my nerves while others raved about it.  I guess in the end it just depends upon your taste in books.  Guess that's why I seem to be the odd man out when it comes to The Graveyard Book.

I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman - I adore Coraline and will happily watch Mirrormask any day of the week.  So I was excited with the idea of a live boy being raised by ghosts in The Graveyard Book.  And while the book was entertaining, on the whole it was a letdown.

The main drive of the story is that Nobody Owens - Bod for short - was a baby when he came to the graveyard.  If he leaves, the man Jack will find him and kill him.  We don't know why Jack wants to kill him or who Jack is even working for.  Bod dutifully remains on the graveyard grounds as he grows, having several adventures along the way and remaining under the watchful eye of his guardian, Silas.

But all we get is the top layer of the story.  There is something beneath the surface, something deadly serious going on, yet we never get to know about it.  I know that even if I were a kid again and reading this, I'd feel the exact same way as I do now.  Frustrated and wanting my questions answered.  The book is essentially full of snippets of "a day in the life of Nobody Owens."  Each chapter is like a vignette, a brief adventure that Bod has.  He meets many interesting creatures and ventures to some dark places, and it's fun to go with him but eventually you want something interesting to happen, and by the time said interesting thing does happen, it's over.  Most of the time it's Silas doing all the work for Bod.

I want to know why Bod was so special (ok, so they kind of say, but then again, who the heck are "they?").  I want to know what the Sleer was.  I want to know what Silas and his two companions were fighting ("they" but again, what made them so tough and dangerous and what the heck is their goal?).  Very poor plot drive.  You just sort of keep reading, waiting for something important to happen, but instead are just mildly entertained by a series of situations and trial-and-error moments Bod gets himself into.

It won the Newberry Award, and I guess if they don't count plot as a bit point in the book and just writing and ideas, then sure, I understand.  After all, it is well-written and has some neat ideas going on (I do love the Hounds of God idea).  However, if I had to do it all over again, I'd skip this and read something else.

Weak recommendation; read if you're curious.  It won't take very long and Dave McKean's illustrations are always interesting.



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More The Graveyard Book reviews
review by . July 13, 2010
Perfectly-paced storytelling from Neil Gaiman and stark illustrations from Dave McKean combine to make this a fantastic, enjoyable quick read. I have always found that McKean's art evokes imagery from Gaiman's tales incredibly well, with their sharp, almost woodcut-seeming black lines, and this is certainly the case in The Graveyard Book, as in Coraline.      Though the story opens with serious action, it takes a bit of reading before one becomes truly absorbed by the …
Quick Tip by . March 24, 2011
I've always been fond of slightly dark fantasy adventures about children, whether written by Lewis Carroll, Edward Gorey, Roald Dahl, or J.K. Rowling. Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is certainly of that same vein and is worthy to sit upon the bookshelf among those authors mentioned above. The novel is a Gothic coming of age story, modeled on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, and tells the story of a young boy, Nobody Owens, whose family was murdered when he was a baby and as a result …
review by . November 29, 2010
Once again, with imaginative and narrative skill, Neil Gaiman has created a children's book unlike any other. At once gothic and phantasmagoric, it is still, at heart, a children's story with perhaps a literary nod to C.S. Lewis and H.P. Lovecraft.     At the beginning of the story a murder happens which leaves the lone survivor-a male toddler-moving out into the open towards a cemetery which is inhabited by a band of spirits from all generations. Once in the graveyard, the spirit …
review by . November 28, 2010
Entertaining and enjoyable
First I want to say how wonderful it was to listen to Neil Gaiman narrate this audio. I love his wry humor and wit, and this book doesn't disappoint.   The Graveyard Book was like a darker combination of Harry Potter and the Jungle Book. A coming of age story where a small boy Nobody Owens finds himself orphaned and being raised by a graveyard full of ghosts and 1 possible vampire (this is never really made clear) while being hunted by an assassin with a keen sense of smell. I was …
review by . July 02, 2010
The concept of this story is refreshingly unique considering the current trend of writing about monsters and death.  The life of the protagonist as he grows up in the graveyard, makes for an interesting story, but the other characters are what make this book a must read.  The book also takes the reader into other worlds as we travel along learning life lessons with Nobody Owens.  This book is not just for kids, its a great read for all ages.
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Changed the food industry!
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
This is a an engaging, interesting story. I was always together with Bod. The ending in a way disappointed me, but it also made me feel food since it was unexpected and that's what you expect from great writers.
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
I was a little disappointed by the end, but the overall story was good, and the writing kept me going without any problem.
Quick Tip by . May 19, 2010
This is a kids' book? Yep - and good stuff, too!
review by . October 06, 2009
The adventures of Nobody "Bod" Owens while having the run of the graveyard... this was such a simplistic and enjoyable read. It felt like a very long short story - only because it was written in a way that each chapter was a story of it's own--even though it dealt with the same characters. There was a thread that ran through them all, but it was mostly in the background. Yet the end tied it all in and left me very satisfied with the outcome. I loved that we watched Bod being raised, nurtured and …
About the reviewer
Nicole ()
Age: 27 Currently: Freelancing my butt off and querying my other novel, Blood for Wolves. Who likes seriously factured fairy tales? =D      Like books? Then take it from a real, live … more
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About this book


The Graveyard Book is a young adult fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman. The story is about a boy named Nobody Owens, whose family is killed by a mysterious man named Jack, and who is subsequently adopted and raised by the occupants of an old graveyard. Gaiman's first full-length children's novel since the bestselling and widely acclaimed Coraline, The Graveyard Book won the 2009 Newbery Award.
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ISBN-10: 0060530928
ISBN-13: 978-0060530921
Author: Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Harpercollins Childrens
Date Published: October 01, 2008
Format: Novel
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