Harper Collins Children’s Books
First Paperback Edition 2010
Review courtesy of Wikipedia
The Graveyard Book is a young adult fantasy novel by the English author Neil Gaiman, simultaneously published in Britain and America in 2008. The Graveyard Book traces the story of the boy Nobody “Bod” Owens who is adopted and reared by the supernatural occupants of a graveyard after his family is murdered.
Gaiman won both the British Carnegie Medal and the American Newbery Medal recognizing the year’s best children’s books, the first time both named the same work. The Graveyard Book also won the annual Hugo Award for Best Novel from the World Science Fiction Convention and Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book selected by Locus magazine subscribers.
Chris Riddell, who illustrated the British children’s edition, made the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist. It was the first time in the award’s 30-year history that one book made both the author and illustrator shortlists. Timemagazine included the novel in its list of the 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time.
Spoiler Alert: This synopsis contains numerous plot spoilers.
The story begins as Jack (usually referred to in the novel as “the man Jack”) murders most of the members of a family (later revealed to be the Dorian family) except for the toddler upstairs. Unknown to him, the toddler has climbed out of his crib to explore. The toddler crawls out of the house and up a hill to a graveyard where the ghosts find him. They discuss whether to keep him until the Lady on the Grey (implied to be the Angel of Death) appears and suggests that the baby should be kept (“The dead should have charity”). The ghosts accept, and Mrs. Owens (the ghost who first discovered the baby) and her husband, Mr. Owens, become the foster parents. The baby is named Nobody Owens (since Mrs. Owens declares “He looks like nobody except himself”) and is granted the Freedom of the Graveyard, which allows Nobody to pass through solid objects when in the graveyard, including its gates. The caretaker Silas (subsequently implied to be an ancient and formerly evil vampire, now reformed) accepts the duty of providing for Nobody. The man Jack is persuaded by Silas that the toddler has crawled down the hill, and he eventually loses the trail.
The bulk of the book is about Nobody’s (often called Bod) adventures in and out of the graveyard as he grows up. As a boy, he befriends a girl called Scarlett Perkins, and she is eventually convinced by her mother that he is her imaginary friend. It is with her that Bod discovers a creature called the Sleer, who has been waiting for thousands of years for his “Master” to come and reclaim him. The Sleer’s greatest duty is to protect the Master and his treasure from the world. Scarlett’s parents believe she has gone missing during this adventure and when she returns, consequently decide to move the family to Scotland. Nobody is once captured by the Ghouls and then rescued by his tutor Miss Lupescu, discovering she is a Hound of God (i.e. a werewolf). Bod befriends Elizabeth Hempstock, the ghost of an unjustly executed witch and through a short adventure that includes being kidnapped by a greedy pawnshop owner, tricking the pawnshop owner, and stealing a gravestone for her. Once he tries to attend regular primary school with other human children, but it ends in a disaster when two bullies make it impossible for him to maintain a low profile. Throughout his adventures, Bod learns supernatural abilities such as Fading (allows Bod to turn invisible, but only if no one is paying attention to him), Haunting (which allows Bod to make people feel uneasy, though this ability can be amplified to terrify them), and Dreamwalking (going into others' dreams and controlling the dream, though he cannot cause physical harm). These abilities are taught to Bod by his loving graveyard parents, his ghost teacher Mr. Pennyworth, and Silas.
Years pass by, and it is revealed that Jack has still been searching for the toddler that he had failed to kill. He must complete his assignment or his ancient, secret society, the Jacks of All Trades, will be destroyed by the surviving boy. It is revealed that Jack originally went to kill the Dorian family because of a prophecy which stated that Bod would destroy the Jacks of All Trades.
On Bod's 14th year at the graveyard, Silas and Miss Lupescu both leave to attend some business. Meanwhile, Scarlett and her mother come back to the town after her parents got divorced, and she and Bod reunite. Scarlett has also made friends with a historian called Mr. Jay Frost who is living in a house not too far from the graveyard. Researching the murder of Bod's family, Scarlett learns that the historian lives in the house that Bod once lived in. Bod visits the house, in an effort to learn more about his family. When showing Bod the room he lived in as a baby, Mr. Frost reveals that he actually is the man Jack; Jack Frost is his full, true name.
Bod is chased by the man Jack and four other members of the Order, the Jacks of All Trades. Bod and Scarlett escape to the graveyard where Bod is able to defeat each Jack separately, except for Jack Frost. Jack Frost takes Scarlett captive in the chamber of the Sleer but is then tricked by Bod into claiming himself as the Sleer's master. The Sleer engulfs Jack Frost in an "embrace," and they disappear into the wall, presumably "protecting him from the world," forever. Silas returns, and it is revealed that he and Miss Lupescu are members of the Honour Guard, devoted to protecting "the borders between things." With two other supernatural beings (the Ifrit Haroun and the winged mummy Kandar), they have fought the Jacks of All Trades throughout the novel (explaining earlier references made by the Jacks to losses in various cities around the world). Though they succeed in destroying the society, Miss Lupescu is killed in battle, to Silas and Bod's great sorrow.
Scarlett is shocked and appalled by the events of the night and Bod's questionable actions in the course of defeating Jack Frost (though it was the Sleer who killed Jack Frost, Bod knew it would happen and so arranged the events). Silas suggests the best course is to remove most of her memories of Bod and what happened that night. Bod disagrees with Silas, but Scarlett ends up with her memories taken anyway. Silas uses his power of suggestion to convince Scarlett and her mother to return to Glasgow.
In the final chapter of the book, Bod is "about 15" and is slowly losing the Freedom of the Graveyard and even his ability to see ghosts. At the end of the book, Silas gives Bod some money and a passport with the name of Nobody Owens. Bod says his good-byes to his ghostly family and friends and leaves the graveyard to embark on a new life.
If you are home schooling a 5th or 6th grader this book is recommended for that age group. However, if you are an adult who hasn't read The Graveyard Book and are looking for a good read you will not go wrong. It is a distraction from what is currently covered on most media.