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 of the boy's murdered mother makes an appearance, asking the earthbound entities to act as caregivers for her surviving child, for her soul is not to be married to the earth. As the ghosts discuss amongst themselves what to do, they make an agreement to keep a watchful eye upon him. Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a childless spirit couple agree to act as the new mom and dad while Silas, an enigmatic and wizened figure of angelic powers agrees to act as guardian, an entity of a sort who is the only one who can leave the graveyard and navigate around the vastness of the globe, bringing the orphaned child the necessities that he will require in order to grow and develop and mature into adulthood.
Given the name of Nobody Owens, the boy gradually adapts himself to the wonderfully macabish environment and its loving but ghostly influences; as a group, they nurture him the best way they know how, feeding him and imparting wisdom and knowledge from long days past. They also bestow upon him supernatural abilities that allow him to function normally in an environment meant only for the dead; he can see in the pitch black of the night. He can vanish and or fade, and his senses are heightened to a level that makes him more attuned to the dead than the living. Yet, as he grows, the defiance of teenage-hood sets in, compounded by his brief yet pleasant encounters with the living; they are the light and are evocative of action, ideology, living, something that the dead can not offer. They have had their turn in life, whether it was long or short, but it too was temporarily theirs.
Wanting desperately to assimilate into the world of the living, Nobody Owens is always held back, despite the fact that his youthful rambunctiousness does occasionally get the better of him. But there is still danger out in the living world, for the ones who killed his living family are still out to get him. And the guardian Silas knows very well who they are-the man Jack and his minions-though he is mum about it towards Nobody Owens, who is not ready to hear the truth. The backdrop of the story is actually outside the graveyard; the peace and protection is only within. While in the cemetery, Nobody or Bod, as he like to be called, embarks on a series of adventures and misadventures that take place in the lower depths of the yard; his mind is opened to figureheads and ghouls who are are still embittered with a pinch of darkness in their beings, for what they could not correct in themselves in life they carried with themselves to death. And it is a merry-go-round of splendidly told tales and experiences, merging the living with the dead.
The crux of the work is that in decent and healthy communities it is always good and noble to help where it is asked for and when necessary. A community and or village, even in the ghastly sense, can offer something of inestimable value whose rewards may not be immediately seen but only in the long run. That works too for the negative ramifications. It is also about growing up and leaving the nest, moving away from those who raised you and loved you. But that is how life operates, for when the kids turn into adults, they may be gone, but they're not really gone. The connection of unity and love is fully solidified, despite distances. And that love can transcend even beyond death, as is illustrated in The Graveyard Book. Energy. Memories. Souls. They are always comfortingly with us. Most deserving of the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Unique. Period.