Review Blog

Dec 09 2008

The graveyard book by Neil Gaiman Ill. by Chris Riddell.

cover image

Bloomsbury, 2008.
(Ages 10+) Recommended. Nobody Owens, Bod for short, has evaded a murderer when he was a baby. The evil Jack has killed all his family members, and the ghosts who reside in the local graveyard have rescued him. Brought up by the kindly ghosts of Mr and Mrs Owens, and mentored by Silas, Bod is taught many things and faces many dangers and adventures. The Sleer who guards an ancient treasure wants him to be Guardian; evil ghouls try to entice him away and the man Jack is still pursuing him.
This is a story for all ages. Each chapter is almost a short story and very readable. Gaiman builds up lots of tension and fear with his imagery and descriptions of the adventures that Bod has. The opening is very frightening with the tale of Jack creeping through the house and murdering the family.
Gaiman is a master of characterisation. Each of the people in this novel is so well drawn that they will stay in the memory long after the book has been put down. The reader follows the life of Bod from a toddler to teenager, watching him grow and mature and never losing the inquiring mind and curiosity that saved him as a baby. The Owens couple is warm and friendly and Silas, dark and wise, is a wonderful teacher for a young boy. Minor characters like Liza from the potter's field and the Lady on the Grey are fully rounded. Chris Riddell's illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the text and enhance the reader's perception of the characters and the setting.
The many themes that permeate this book will appeal to different ages. Younger readers will be drawn to the portrayal of family, while Bod's coming of age story and decision to make it on his own will engross older readers. Everyone will be enthralled by the Danse Macabre scene and the horrors of the ghouls.
Pat Pledger

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