Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book,” with beautiful illustrations by Dave McKean, takes us into a magical and thoughtful world. While many think of Gaiman, author of the acclaimed “Coraline,” only as a graphic novelist, or a children’s writer, his newest work, “The Graveyard Book,” contains some very mature and necessary ideas. It’s a great story for anyone who yearns for more than what our eyes can see.
Imagine a boy raised in a graveyard, by loving, tender, and funny ghosts. That is the unlikely setting for “Nobody Owens,” whose family is murdered near the graveyard when he is an infant. The ghosts teach him about life in the various centuries they lived. His ghost parents, childless in their “living lives” are a serious and loving couple, anxious to raise this “living boy” well.
Gaiman shows us how the boy grows up, learns who he is, what the world is like, and where his place is in it. This story does not have the same terror as Gaiman’s earlier work “Coraline.” This book is a bit more reflective and thoughtful. But the story gallops along with prose that is sometimes hilarious and at other times poetic. “Nobody Owens” gets kidnapped by ghouls, befriends a witch, is sent by the ghosts to a regular school, and develops tender relationships with his mysterious “guardian” in the graveyard. It’s a great coming of age story– in a very strange place.
“The Graveyard Book” won the Newberry Medal, the highest award for children’s literature. But to relegate this story as merely one for children, would be to miss a fantastic story– as well as the chance to learn from the dead! Here is a great read.