Friday, October 23, 2009

Graveyard Book

Biblio Bits The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, read by the author, Harper Children's Audio, 2008 (ISBN 9780061551895)

Reading Level/Interest Age 820 lexile/ages 10+

Genre Magical realism

Format Audio book

Plot Summary
When a calculated killer murders his family one night, it's only his penchant for escaping the crib that leads Baby to slip out of the house unnoticed. This turns out to be for the best, as the most important target was the baby himself. He makes his toddling way up the hill and into an old graveyard, but the killer has not forgotten his missed prey. The residents of the graveyard (ghosts) decide to harbor the fugitive, after much deliberation; Mr. and Mrs. Owens take him in as their ward and his guardian is the mysterious Silas, who is not quite a ghost, but not living either. Young Bod (short for Nobody), has the Freedom of the Graveyard, which affords him some of the privileges that the ghosts have, such as Fading and Haunting. But the caveat is that Bod must not leave the Graveyard or else he won't be protected from the outside forces that still seek his destruction. A magical tale of growing up and learning life's lessons both large and small, The Graveyard Book is a mix of humor, friendship, and love, and with a bit of suspense and scary thrown in.

Critical Evaluation
The audio version of this title is a true delight, read by Gaiman himself (one of the few authors who should be allowed to read their own stuff), with music by Bela Fleck interspersed between the chapters. In fact, though I want to share this book with my 11 year-old son, I may opt to listen with him rather than read it aloud, since Gaiman reads so masterfully. The only place in the story that has made me pause in my reading is the chapter when Bod enters the Ghoul Gate. During both of my readings of the book, I could see that Bod was about to get into trouble and I wanted to avoid reading about it or listening to it. The characters in this book, and their relationships, are one reason why this title is noteworthy (particularly Bod's relationship with the ghost girl, Liza, and the relationship between Bod and Silas). But really, Gaiman's everlasting talent as a writer is that he can conjure a complete and believable world of fantasy with absolutely no holes. As a reader, this allows one to fully immerse in the flow of the story and marvel at the possibilities Gaiman poses.

Reader's Annotation
Ready for a great story just in time to give you the Halloween shivers? Then you might be in the mood for the story of Nobody Owens, an orphan who lives in an ancient graveyard full of ghosts.

Author Information
Neil Gaiman was born in 1960 and grew up in West Sussex, England. Gaiman is the critically-acclaimed author of the Sandman series of graphic novels, has written poetry, short fiction, and books for adults. He has received many awards for his works, too many to name, and is primarily considered an author who writes in the fantasy genre (though there is lots of crossover). Gaiman is the father of three children and is divorced. He resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Information for this bio was gleaned from this entry and the author's official site.)

Challenge issues
The element of terror and suspense during the scenes when Bod is being actively pursued might make some parents leery of this title if they have younger children. Witchcraft is referred to because Bod is friends with a long-dead witch who was drowned, then burned.

Booktalking Ideas
I would definitely play up the supernatural elements for a Halloween-themed booktalk: a boy who lives in a graveyard and talks to ghosts, Fading, Haunting, Dream Visitations, not to mention the Danse Macabre (a traditional and ancient ball when the dead get to dance with the living).

Curriculum Ties
This makes an excellent read-aloud, even if you aren't Neil Gaiman. This would be a good selection for a language arts book, particularly because there are threads of the story that allow for some ambiguity and therefore lend themselves to interesting discussions. Who/What is Silas? Who are the Jacks? Who is Bod? Why is he the Jacks' target?

Why this book?
This book initially turned me off because the first few pages are so dark and scary. But the audio version was recommended highly by two librarians I know, so I tried it that way first (loved it), and then read the paper version.

Newbery Medal (2009); ALA Notable Book for Middle Readers (2009); Booklist Editors' Choice Award for Older Readers (2008); Hugo Award for Best Novel (2009); Audie Awards for Best Children's 8-12 and Best Audiobook of the Year (2009).

Rockport Public Library owns?

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