Friday, 20 September 2013

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Publication date: 30th September 2008
Published by: Harper Collins
Genre: Fantasy/Horror (Children) 

This story begins with a multiple murder of a family asleep in their beds.  The assassin's name is Jack and he wields a knife.  He fails to kill the last family member, a toddler, who while the other murders were taking place, managed to climb out of his crib, descend the stairs and crawl out the front door.  When Jack realises the crib is empty, he rushes down the stairs and out the door and is just in time to see the child entering a graveyard some distance away.

The graveyard is inhabited by ghostly residents including a couple, Mr and Mrs Owens, who find the baby.  They then see the ghost of a woman who has recently been killed and is begging them to protect her child from the man who killed her.  They agree to do so.  When Jack arrives at the graveyard there is no sign of the baby, only a strange man who convinces him that he was mistaken about seeing the child.

The Graveyard book tells the story of how a young boy comes to be raised by ghosts, and a guardian, Silas,  who is neither dead nor alive (although it is not clarified his characteristics suggest he is a reformed vampire).  They name the boy Nobody Owens and everyone calls him Bod.  Bod is very inquisitive (which is just as well as this saved his life in the first place), and as such he gets himself into all sorts of trouble.  It is made clear to him that he needs to stay inside the graveyard to be safe from the dangers outside.  Does he obey and remain inside the graveyard?  Of course not.  

All the while the man Jack continues to search for him in order to finish the job he was contracted to do.  It is a mystery as to why Bod's family were murdered and why it would seem someone is out to get Bod as well. Silas goes away a lot and it transpires that he is trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.

This is a wonderful read for children of about 8+.  Although the premise sounds scary, the plot is not (okay maybe just a little).  What I got from it was more about the importance of family and friendship and the lengths one will go to to protect the ones they love.

It is extremely well-written and I would highly recommend it for encouraging a non-reading child to do just that (get reading that is).

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