Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Graveyard Book - winner of 2009 Newbery Award

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
New York : HarperCollins Pub., c2008.
also available on audio: HarperChildrensAudio and Recorded Books
ages: 9 - 14

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, has just won the 2009 Newbery Award for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature. It's a wonderful choice, and it will hook many fantasy readers. Here's the description by the American Library Association:
"A delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing, the tale of Nobody Owens is told in magical, haunting prose. A child marked for death by an ancient league of assassins escapes into an abandoned graveyard, where he is reared and protected by its spirit denizens."
The beginning of the story is especially creepy. A murderer is searching through a house after he has killed the parents and an older child. But the toddler escapes, not knowing about any of the harm that's come to his family. He toddles out of the house and wanders to the graveyard up the hill. The ghosts of the graveyard adopt him, name him Nobody (or Bod for short), and vow to protect him -- and so starts the story. The Graveyard Book follows Bod as he grows up amongst the graveyard residents, the ghosts from people buried throughout the ages. What's fascinating is that the violence is never shown directly. And so Gaiman makes the book perfect for kids: deliciously scary, but not gratuitously violent.

The strength of the book is how it shows Bod's coming of age, as he struggles with so many things that all children struggle with: who am I? how can I fit in? how do I become my own person, while still loving my family? But really, that's probably why I loved the book.

Kids will love the book because it draws them into a completely fantastical world, utterly unlike their own, and yet strangely recognizable. They will love the adventure of when Bod is drawn into the ghoulish world below and has to escape for his life. They will love the threat of when the Jacks, a strange band of murderers, try to track down Bod. But this book is for the kid who won't get nightmares - I would say 4th grade & up.

Want a taste of the book? Listen and watch the author read the book aloud - this is his video book tour (great quality - amazing voice). Here is the book online at HarperCollins (they have the first three chapters online).

One last plug: if you or your child enjoys audiobooks, this is fantastic. The author, Neil Gaiman, reads the book with perfect pitch and tone - bringing alive the macabre settings perfectly. Below is a link to listen to the beginning of the audiobook from HarperCollins.

Available at: Amazon: hardcover, Amazon: audiobook, Oakland Public Library, Berkeley Public Library, and Recorded Books.


  1. We had one copy of Graveyard that got past around the bookstore. Its the first Newbery winner that most of the staff can talk about with confidence. I looking forward to the Coraline movie.

  2. I'm not a big Coraline fan, but I loved this book. It was nice reading your take on it, and you're right--Neil Gaiman has a wonderful voice!

  3. FYI, Recorded Books also offers the Neil Gaiman audio recording. He does a great job narrating!

  4. Thanks, Recorded Books. I'll include a link! It's a fantastic audiobook. Mary Ann