The Graveyard Book begins with a murder of a man, his wife, and their daughter by a character named Jack. Fortunately, their youngest child, a toddler, has decided to explore the graveyard nearby, allowing him to escape the murderous intentions of Jack. The ghosts of the graveyard then decide to raise the little boy as their own and protect him from Jack. They name him Nobody "Bod" Owens and give him the Freedom of the Graveyard. Silas, a character in the novel who is most likely a vampire, becomes the boy's guardian, bringing him food, clothes, and basically just talking to Bod about the world outside the graveyard.
Except for the first chapter of the novel, the first few chapters of The Graveyard Book are episodic. You read about Bod and his dealings with the graveyard's inhabitats, including the resident witch, the ancient Roman ghost, and Ms. Lupescu, Silas's occasional replacement and erstwhile werewolf/shapeshifter. We also meet Scarlett, a girl who's almost the same age as Bod, as she strikes a friendship with Bod. Their adventures as make us recall all those carefree times in our childhood when we whiled away the time just exploring every nook and cranny of our childhood haunts.
The Graveyard Book is an homage to our childhood, which has always been a very magical stage. Gaiman even manages to incorporate important values that should be imbibed as children. We see how Bod's adoptive ghost parents, the Owenses, raises him to become respectful despite his unconventional home environment. Also, Gaiman, without being preachy, effortlessly weaves scenarios into the novel that show why children need to go to school. The Graveyard Book thus spoke to the educator in me.
The book has won several literary prizes such as the Hugo and the Newberry. The awards heaped on it are richly deserved. The Graveyard Book is one very satisfying read, with an ending that is so bittersweet that you can't help but feel for Bod. Of course, I won't give anything as to the fate of Bod in the end. There's also something for everyone in it -- horror, fantasy, history, coming-of-age, and, of course, comedy.
Read this book if:
- You miss your childhood and all the magical things it brings.
- You think graveyards are wonderful play areas.
- You believe in ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and mummies.