April 28, 2010

The Graveyard Book


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is an amazing feat of storytelling. But what do you expect from Gaiman? The guys has stories coming out his ears. I didn't think he could top the Sandman stories, then he started writing amazing novels. I didn't think he could top those, then he started writing for children. He takes the best of Carroll, Kipling, Poe and Harlan Ellison and just goes on and on and on telling one fabulous tale after another.

You've probably heard the summary. A baby boy's family is murdered (off stage) and he happens to crawl through the open door and across the street to a graveyard. He is protected and raised by a wonderful assortment of ghosts, a vampire and others.

Gaiman is fantastic reader as well. I read the actual book, but I've heard him enough to have his voice in my head as I read this. (Don't worry, it's a pleasant experience.) You can see him read it here on his video book tour of the book. (I'm just not patient enough to sit and watch them all in front of the computer.)

There are few flaws. The bad guy(s) aren't as freaky as first built up, but that's not his point anyway. It's a bit too episodic for me, but that's okay. It's his riff on The Jungle Book and a wonderful one at that. It may not quite reach the powerful heights of the His Dark Materials trilogy, but again, it's okay. This stands with some of the best children's fantasy's around.

The writing is graceful and lighter than air. The humorous touches are expert. The emotional touches even more so. You know it's a classic when you get to the end and you couldn't be happier with it or sadder that it's come. It does what the best stories do: makes you happy to be alive.

6 comments:

Victoria said...

Rachel tried reading this book, but didn't care for the beginning. She chose to read Coraline. She got me to read Coraline, as well. I will put this one in my book queue.

Katyroo said...

I loved listening to Gaiman read The Graveyard Book aloud. For young and middle readers, the suspense of the baddies coming back is plenty, even if the bad guys aren't super-vicious.

By the way, Philip Pullman wrote the Dark Materials trilogy, but I imagine that he's accustomed to being compared to other authors, including Gaiman, who wrote Stardust (made into a movie), Coraline (ditto), Anansi Boys, American Gods, and co-authored Good Omens. A whole bunch of good books there!

C.B. James said...

I don't get Gaiman. I've tried and tried again, but I just don't get him. I do see that this one is an excellent book.

I've not seen my middle schoolers reading it. Have you seen your students reading it? I have the suspiscion that this is a children's book with a largely adult audience. That's okay. There's lots of good stuff out there just like that.

Christine said...

I love The Graveyard Book. My nine and eleven year old children loved it too. We find ourselves bringing it up in conversations months after we originally read it. I don't want to go for the easy pun and call it "haunting," but it certainly made an impression on us. Glad you liked it too.

Jim (Teacherninja) said...

Victoria,

I personally liked it better than Coraline, but who knows?

Katyroo,

British authors are definitely better at the fantasy. Pullman, Gaiman, Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, and on and on...

C.B.,

I've been reading him since the Sandman comics in college, so I guess my mind was already warped that way. I don't know who reads this. It's above elementary (though I've had some 5th grade girls ask me about it) but if you don't see middle schoolers reading it, then maybe it is just geeky adults like myself.

ms-teacher said...

without a doubt one of my favorite Gaiman books. I also liked it better than Coraline.