Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Posted April 14, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKeanThe Graveyard Book by Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman
Genres: Children's Book, Fantasy
Published by Harper Collins on September 30, 2008
Pages: 312
Format: eBook


After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family.

Also by this author: How Do You Live?

A children’s fantasy about Bod Owens who was rescued by ghosts.

This story has a list of awards that’s almost longer than this review, and I’d say it deserved them all!

My Take
This was such fun! It’s improbable, ridiculous, and so very heartwarming. I know, a graveyard. A cozy, homey graveyard in which Bod learns life’s lessons in a protective setting. It’s a happy place with lots of places for Bod to explore, friends to talk with, and adventures to experience.

It’s a safe place for children to learn how to stand up to bullies, how to apologize, how to be a friend, and the value of one’s community.

If a person didn’t care about you, you couldn’t upset them.

I had been curious as to how Bod would reach the end of his time in the graveyard, and as I read, I got teary at the sad yet inevitable ending.

“But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his eyes and his heart wide open.”

The Story
A lone assassin invades a sleeping family’s home only to miss his target: an inquisitive toddler who has wandered uphill to a local cemetery.

It’s a kindly cemetery with inquisitive, caring ghosts who take the boy in, protect him, raise him, teach him in the ways of the dark and the light.

“It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will take a graveyard.”

The Characters
Nobody “Bod” Owens is a lucky boy, even if he can never leave the graveyard. Mistress Betsy and Master Owens “adopt” Bod as their own. Owens was a master cabinetmaker back in his day.

Other inhabitants of the cemetery include:
Silas, a member of the Honour Guard, who is neither alive nor dead and agrees to be Bod’s guardian. Josiah Worthington, a local brewer, politician, and later a baronet who donated the cemetery and its land to the city some 300 years ago, could be considered the mayor of the graveyard. Other ghosts include Mother Slaughter; Caius Pompeius is about the oldest inhabitant, a Roman; Miss Letitia Borrows will teach Bod joined-up letters; Mr. Pennyworth teaches the Compleat Educational System for Younger Gentlemen with Additional Material for Those Post Mortem; Liza Hempstock is a witch who looks out for Bod; the Bartleby family is seven generations strong; Fortinbras Bartleby is one of Bod’s friends; Louisa Bartleby is Fortinbras’ grandmother; Thackeray Porringer died in anger and hates for anyone to borrow anything of his; Miss Euphemia Horsfall, a Victorian lady, is stepping out with Tom Sands, who has been buried so long that his headstone is a weathered lump; Nehemiah Trot is a very bad poet; Mr. Carstairs; and, Alonso Tomás Garcia Jones, who has such stories to tell.

The Lady on the Grey puts her seal of approval on the adoption. The Indigo Man is deep, deep inside the hill and can teach one all about Fear, for he works for the Sleer. Miss Lepescu, a Hound of God, is like Silas, and she arrives to take Silas’ place when he travels, and she teaches Bod new things. Except she feeds Bod the most awful food! Kandar, an Assyrian mummy, and Haroun, an ifrit, who are colleagues of Silas and Miss Lepescu.

Amabella Persson, Roddy Persson, and Portunia Persson are ghosts in another graveyard; they’ve heard of the live boy and approve of his actions.

Scarlett Amber Perkins is bored and comes to the graveyard to play. Her dad travels from university to university teaching particle physics; her mother, Noona Perkins, teaches courses online.

Abanazer Bolder runs a pawn shop, and he’s a bad man. Tom Hustings is the closest thing he has to a friend. Mrs. Caraway is the town’s Lady Mayoress. Nick Farthing is in cahoots with Mo Quilling in bullying the seventh graders. Paul Singh is simply the first to stand up. Mr. Kirby, Mrs. Hawkins teaches general sciences, and Mrs. McKinnon are teachers. Simon and Tam (he’s Mo’s uncle) are policeman. Jay Frost does tombstone rubbings and seems a very nice man.

The Jacks of All Trades
man Jack is a murderer, anxious to finish his task. Mr. Dandy, Mr. Tar, Mr. Nimble, and Mr. Ketch are almost more anxious. The Jacks are a fraternal organization, not official like, from way back, back even before Babylon was thought.

The Duke of Westminster, the Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells are ghouls, bragging and weak, hungry and fearsome.

The Freedom of the Graveyard means the graveyard will take care of you. You’ll be able to see in the dark, walk ways the living cannot, and cause the eyes of the living to slip away from you. There is a ghoul-gate in every graveyard; you’ll know it when you see it. Hounds of dog are called werewolves by man. The Honour Guard protects the borderlands, the borders of things.

Ronald Dorian, an architect; Carlotta, his wife and a publisher; and, Misty, their daughter, were murdered one night over a decade ago.

The Cover
The cover is spooky with its blues, grays, and black. A foggy path leading off into a foggier background of trees and tombstones. But first you must pass the worn and weather-eaten tombstone situated at the bend in the path.

If life is a book, then The Graveyard Book is a story of Bod’s life.

Reviewed by Kathy Davie, who is fast gaining followers in Goodreads and Amazon for her honest book reviews. Passionate about reading, writing, and editing, she searches the Internet for tips, tricks, and warnings with a keen interest in ideas that will foster reading in children as well as adults while aiding writers in their craft. Kathy blogs daily at KD Did It Takes on Books.

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4 responses to “Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

  1. I have been wanting to read a Neil Gaiman boo for a long time. This one looks really good. I love it when books are funny in a sick way!

    Hve you read any of his other books, if so which one do you recommend I start with ?:)

    Alex @ The Shelf Diaries

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