The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

Where did we get this book? Hmm. It looks brand new. I think we must have bought this at Barnes and Noble on a Sunday browse, and then let it slip to the bottom of the stack.

It’s time for a palate cleanser after two rather serious books about the bonds women create, one a hefty tome, the other a thoughtful work of non-fiction. It’s time for something lighter, something fun. It’s time to read a book I can talk about with my son James.

James is 24, bright and funny. Jim is on the autism spectrum, which gives him the ability to focus intensely on a topic, and his intense focus is on sci fi and fantasy story. He loves the written word and he loves film.

And he loves to share those interests with us, his parents. Sometimes our interests overlap, and sometimes our interests are far, far apart. So it’s nice to find a book we both like.

Ordinarily, I’m a wimp about the supernatural stories—I am not at all a fan of vampire lit (Jim loves it) or tales of moldering evil. But I’ve seen some of Neil Gaiman’s work made into film, and I see that he handles his topics in a way that makes the supernatural seem commonplace and matter-of-fact.

So The Graveyard Book begins with a horrific murder, and the fact that a toddler is taken in by the spirits in an old cemetery seems right and just.

The baby never learns his birth name. He is adopted by a kind dead couple, the Owens, and he becomes Nobody Owens: Bod for short.

In Gaiman’s hands, a wee one growing up in a cemetery doesn’t seem weird at all; it’s warm and safe and fascinating. Bod grows into a kind and brave young man, and he is a favorite of all the spirits. He learns how to read and write, and he learns graveyard skills. He can Fade. He can pass through walls.

But the evil that killed his family is pacing, waiting to find him, too, and so Bod must grow stronger and stronger until he can face and defeat—we hope—his foes. It’s a classic coming of age tale told with a witty flair.

It’s a riff on the Jungle Book; did I ever read the Jungle Book? It’s going on the list of books to read after the shelves have been cleared.

I recommend The Graveyard Book; it’s a well-written quick read, and it’s something squeamish moms like me can share with their bold-reading kids.

The Graveyard Book has won a slew of awards, including the Newberry; go to to learn more. Gaiman said the book began to percolate when his son was two; the child was riding his tricycle on graveyard paths and a story began to nudge… Many years later, the award-winning The Graveyard Book emerged.

I enjoyed the black and white drawings that accompany, but don’t overwhelm, the story. I think I might (once the shelves are clear, of course) check out some of Gaiman’s work for grown-ups, too!


4 thoughts on “The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

  1. Pam, you are such a talented writer and such a beautiful person. Love your insight … It’s even poetic. Thank you for sharing this side of you with me.

  2. Pam, one of my sons recommended Neil Gaiman’s Stardust earlier this year. I was skeptical to start but was soon entranced. I’m adding The Graveyard Book to
    my must read wish list. From your category list I can see I’ll be back for more.

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