Gearing up for Halloween means reading spooky, scary ghost stories, right? Okay, in my case, not usually. But this one is really, really, really good – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
The story begins with a murder. An entire family is murdered by a man named Jack – all except the youngest boy, a toddler, who manages to crawl out of the house and into a nearby graveyard. Once inside the graveyard, the boy is found by the ghosts that live there who decide to take care of him. They name him “Nobody” and he is adopted by two of the ghosts, Mr. and Mrs. Owens. Another mysterious figure, named Silas, agrees to be his guardian and provide for him.
As Bod grows up, he learns a lot about the people buried in the graveyard, but he is almost completely cut off from the normal world. He has a handful of normal friends, most notably a young girl named Scarlett. The trouble is that Bod is the only one who can see the ghosts. He explores the graveyard and surrounding areas, becoming almost like a ghost himself. Throughout the story is the mystery of why “the man Jack” tried to kill Bod. It is clear that Bod is only safe in the graveyard where the ghosts can watch out for him.
This story was very creative. It addressed problems that I would never have thought of. For example, there are a few children of varying ages among the ghosts. Bod plays with one little ghost boy as a child, but Bod grows up. The ghost boy doesn’t. It’s really sad to see how Bod feels about it, how distant he feels from his friend, who is still a child.
Full of mysteries, secret societies, a really creepy creature called the “Sleer,” and a whole host of entertaining ghosts, this story is a great story for Halloween, especially if you don’t want anything too scary. And the illustrations are really fun, too. This book won both the Carnegie Medal and the Newberry Medal, both high awards for Children’s Literature, and there is no question why. It’s awesome.