Saturday, December 12, 2009

FitG Update: The Graveyard Book

On the night when a mysterious man called Jack murders an entire family, there's one who escapes the edge of his knife. A baby boy toddles out of the house of death and finds refuge in a graveyard. He lives there for fifteen years, adopted by ghosts, with a guardian who is neither alive nor dead.

They give him the name Nobody Owens, "Bod" for short, and they give him the Freedom of the Graveyard, which means that he can pass through walls, see clearly in the dark, and interact with the graveyard's inhabitants. But Bod is still very much alive, and even though he loves his home, his adopted family, and his neighbors, he yearns to be among the living.

But he can't leave the graveyard. It's too dangerous. The man Jack is still looking for him, desperate to finish the job.

I loved this book. Endlessly creative, it was easy to lose myself in the plot. The unusual caste of characters from ages past -- Bod's ghostly neighbors -- were delightful. Bod is a perfectly likable character, bold and brave. You have to be to live in a graveyard with ghosts, I guess. To sleep snuggled in a grave. To face the ancient Sleer in a long forgotten tomb.

I would recommend this book to every adult I know. Unfortunately, I wouldn't recommend it for children, which is ironic since this is technically a children's book. My eight-year-old daughter, for instance, loves books at this reading level, but I know the plot would be too scary for her. The story opens with the man Jack murdering a family and stalking a missing toddler. That's enough to give any kid nightmares.

On the other hand, I love how The Graveyard Book takes some of childhood's classic fears -- ghosts, monsters, murderers, darkness -- and shows Bod overcoming them. Granted, Bod's not entirely a normal kid. He has special powers given to him by the inhabitants of the graveyard. He has learned from his 800-year-old tutor and from his guardian's friend werewolf skills that regular children would never know. This special knowledge helps him to face his enemies. He never runs away or backs down. I was impressed with his fearlessness in passages when my own heart was racing.

So, if you're over twelve-years-old, I recommend The Graveyard Book. I'll be looking out for more of Neil Gaiman. They can't all be this scary ... can they?

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