The Graveyard Book




The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

Age: 10+

Interests: ghosts, ghouls, violence, orphans, monsters, adopted family, adventure

A man named Jack murders an entire family with a razor-sharp knife in the book’s opening scene, the only survivor is a toddler, who has escaped from his crib and wandered up the road to a graveyard. The resident ghosts hide him from Jack and adopt him into their community. The mysterious Silas – not dead but not entirely alive – becomes his guardian. The boy is named Nobody, or Bod for short, and grows up in the graveyard, learning the ways of the dead.  Since Jack is still searching for the boy he must stay hidden in the graveyard until he has learned the skills he needs to defeat the assassin and finally take his place in the world of the living.

If you can get through the grim opening (and it isn’t particularly graphic, the murders have already taken place as the book opens), the story progresses with great humour and heart, as Bod makes friends with all the eccentric characters inside and just outside the graveyard. (The accused witch Eliza Hempstock is buried in Potter’s Field on the other side of the fence.) Bod’s education is as quirky and unbalanced as his tutors from various historical periods. He has some truly terrifying adventures, which he survives thanks to his presence of mind and tremendous courage.

The chapters of Bod’s growing up years are rather episodic in nature, but all contribute to the exciting climax, when Jack finally shows up to finish him off. Bod defeats Jack, but at a great price. At the end 16-year-old Bod leaves the graveyard for good; on the brink of adulthood, he can no longer even see the ghosts who have been his family for so long. His leavetaking, like that of any adolescent going out into the world, is sad but also full of hope.

This is a dark, violent, spooky story but one with a lot of wit and poetry. It was conceived as a riff on The Jungle Book, but set in a graveyard, and the raising of Bod by the ghosts echoes that book nicely.

Not for the faint-of-heart, this is a rivetting, scary read – a horror story with heart.

(this title available at


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cageofedenaddict
    Sep 22, 2014 @ 11:53:44

    Sounds like a good book to try since I have only read his sandman series before this.


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