Neil Gaiman may have intended The Graveyard Book to be a supernatural retelling of Kipling’s The Jungle Book, but his Newbery-Medal-winning novel is much more than a homage to Mowgli’s adventures. It is an evergreen in its own right, beguiling young and old alike.
The Graveyard Book tells the story of an orphaned boy. Once nameless and friendless, Nobody “Bod” Owens is adopted by the residents of a half-forgotten cemetery. Although they make for unconventional guardians, Gaiman’s ghosts, vampires, and werewolves are delightfully peculiar souls who prove more endearing than most of their corporeal counterparts. Behind the padlocked gates of the graveyard, they nurture Bod and protect him from reprobate ghouls and cut-throat mortals. Like Mowgli, Bod must develop the wit and courage to engage the larger world “with his eyes and his heart wide open”.
While an exquisite veneer of atmospheric detail overlays the narrative, it is the masterful characterization and plotting that makes The Graveyard Book a classic. Both deliciously dark and genuinely compelling, each episode in Bod's life is full of spine-chilling moments and emotional heft. With uncanny skill, the author strikes a marvelous balance between spook and heart. Above all, the Graveyard Book is a story to share and to savor, a book which begs to be read aloud.
Booklist starred (September 15, 2008): "This is an utterly captivating tale that is cleverly told through an entertaining cast of ghostly characters. There is plenty of darkness, but the novel’s ultimate message is strong and life affirming."
Horn Book (November/December, 2008): "Gaiman's assured plotting is as bittersweet as it is action-filled -- the ending, which is also a beginning, is an unexpected tearjerker -- and makes this ghost-story-cum-coming-of-age-novel as readable as it is accomplished."
Kirkus Review starred (August 15, 2008): "Closer in tone to American Gods than to Coraline, but permeated with Bod's innocence, this needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child."
School Library Journal (October 1, 2008): "Bod's love for his graveyard family and vice versa provide the emotional center, amid suspense, spot-on humor, and delightful scene-setting."
The New York Times (February 13, 2009): "The Graveyard Book, by turns exciting and witty, sinister and tender, shows Gaiman at the top of his form."