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Thursday, 1 October 2009

Review: The Graveyard Book

Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Release date: 2008
Genre: Ghost adventure
Target Audience: 10+

Bloomsbury says:
When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard?

Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family.

A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?

Knowing that Neil Gaiman won the Newbery Medal for this novel, I had sky high expectations that this book would be something extraorinary. There is no doubt that The Graveyard Book is a most original novel. I haven't come across a book before that tells the story of a human boy being raised by ghosts. And it is this unconventional tale that gives the book its kooky wonderful quality.
The scenes which explore Bod's unique life growing up in the graveyard show Gaiman to be a children's writer of the highest order. They manage to be witty, quirky and a little sad simultaneously. I couldn't help but laugh out loud each time a new character was introduced with their very eccentric headstone inscriptions. Take this Miss Letitia Borrows who Bod introduces as, "Spinster of the Parish (Who Did No Harm to No Man all the Dais of Her Life. Reader, Can You Say Lykewise?)". I couldn't help but be amused. Bod learns many ghostly lessons as he grows up in the company of ghosts such as Fading and Haunting. This was certainly the most charming aspect of the book.
However, outside of the graveyard I found the plot a little slow. For example, when Bod travels through the Ghoul Gate I felt quite bored as I was reading it and couldn't wait for him to return to the graveyard. I can't help but wonder if Gaiman could have somehow changed the novel to make it exist only within the graveyard. Yes, it would have been an entirely different book but then I think it may have been a breathtaking one.
I think it is also worth noting that I was reading the Children's edition of the book. Personally, I am not one for illustrations and although Riddell's art is beautiful. I would have easily enjoyed the book without it. I hear there is a general consensus of preference for the illustrations in the Adult version.
Overall, I can honestly say this is a very cute and quirky novel which sparkles with originality. At times the plot moves a little too slowly but overall it is a wonderful story. I recommend it to anyone who likes humourous fantasy stories, ghostly adventures or has eccentric tastes in general.


Aimee said...

Awww I've got this one for my 101 fantasy reading challenge - I hope I like it! Thanks for the great review.


prophecygirl said...

Thanks for the review - I was wondering about this one. I have both editions in my review pile, and now thinking of reading the adult one... hmm, decisions decisions. Glad you enjoyed it!

Chicklish said...

Interesting review - thanks a lot! I've sent the adult version of this to one of our reviewers and kept the children's version.

Lenore said...

Somehow I am not that keen on reading this one...hmmm.

Small Review said...

I agree. I loved the parts in the graveyard, but the parts outside felt less coherent and interesting. The ghosts in the graveyard were so nice and interesting with a touch of humor and a very "feel good" vibe.