Review: The Graveyard Book

Posted: August 7, 2009 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Neil Gaiman, Middle Grade, Urban Fantasy

Lest you dear readers feel we have a prejudice against novels that are written for young adults or children, we are here today to prove you wrong.

Neil Gaiman‘s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK (Amazon) is a prime example of a brilliantly written children’s book. Granted, as a children’s book it’s a simpler read, and in many ways not as beautifully complex as the anvil sized tomes we prefer. But some of the most brilliant and enjoyable things in the world are easy and simple (bashing on TWILIGHT for example is the easiest, simplest thing in the world–and yet both enjoyable, and a mark of intelligence).

In addition, while THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is a simple read, it is by no means simple.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is a brilliant twist on Rudyard Kipling’s THE JUNGLE BOOK (Amazon). It’s a story about a boy who escapes the murder of his family as a toddler to be raised by a host of undead creatures–ghosts, vampires, ghouls and werewolves–in an ornate graveyard. Like Mowgli before him, Nobody Owens learns from his tutors, explores the world around him, and eventually must face the murderer of his family–Shere Khan for Mowgli, and the sinister man Jack for Bod Owens.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone (least of all, us), that Gaiman’s work shines here in melding the sense of an innocent fairy tale with depth, darkness, and meaning. We think the genius of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK lies in its subtle and powerful examination of humanity. Oh, it’s a children’s book, yes. But even something so mundane as school takes on an unusual cast–it’s part of life, part of living, and something Bod desperately wants. While Bod struggles to learn what it means to be alive, and to be human, the other-worldliness of the book is enjoyable as well, and we watch Bod learn the traits of the dead: instilling terror, projecting himself into other’s nightmares, and fading completely out of view. While the story is enjoyable, and a fun read, it’s this depth of meaning we love.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK deserves its two awards–the 2009 Newbery, the 2009 Locus award for the Young Adult Category–and is in the running for more: The 2009 Hugo (we voted for it), and the 2009 World Fantasy Award. Not even we are elitist enough to know the other award’s it’s surely been nominated for.

Gaiman's work shines here in melding the sense of an innocent fairy tale with depth, darkness, and meaning. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is genious.

If the simplicity of a children’s book is just too much a price for someone to pay for such a brilliant, masterful tale, then perhaps they just aren’t as self-confident connoisseurs of creative storytelling as we are.

We know all you dear readers care as much about such things as we do. Check out THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.

  • Recommended Age: We would have enjoyed this in the third grade--other readers? Perhaps 10+.
  • Language: None
  • Violence: The violence causing Bod's situation may be something to be aware of for younger readers. Nothing gratuitous or graphic.
  • Sex: This book is ages 10 and up. Seriously? You're checking for this? Move on.

We’ll be covering more of Gaiman’s work, as he is one of our favorites. Visit his website at and then check out whether The Graveyard Book wins the Hugo this Sunday at

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