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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Neil Gaiman, Dave Mckean (Illustrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
16,3951086184 (4.18)1 / 1236
Title:The Graveyard Book
Authors:Neil Gaiman
Other authors:Dave Mckean (Illustrator)
Info:HarperCollins (2008), Edition: Later printing, Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fantasy, young adult

Work details

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008)

  1. 333
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  3. 161
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    A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle (lorax)
    lorax: Beagle's work is not YA, but it is a classic, beautifully written love story involving ghosts and a man living in a cemetary.
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  6. 113
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  7. 81
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  8. 81
    Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (heidialice)
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    Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman (PghDragonMan)
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    The Book of Lost Things: A Novel by John Connolly (jonathankws)
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    From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury (Ape)
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    heidialice: Similar in setting, and both ghost stories, these are very different books, but fans of one should be interested in the other.
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    A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny (MyriadBooks)
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(see all 34 recommendations)

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English (1,067)  German (4)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Hungarian (1)  Romanian (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (1,086)
Showing 1-5 of 1067 (next | show all)
A baby wanders into a graveyard after his family is murdered by a mysterious killer. The baby is adopted by the ghosts and creatures that inhabit the graveyard. The baby is named Bod and grows up under the influence of the inhabitants of the graveyard. ( )
  CodyNoto | Mar 18, 2019 |
In the opening pages, a two-year-old's family is brutally murdered while he toddles down the street and into a graveyard. This little book centres on Bod as he grows up among ghosts and creatures of the night. It's a fun story, and Gaiman's writing is masterful as usual.

But... I have to admit I was a little bored. Each chapter has a tinge of excitement, but once it's over, it feels like there's very little reason to start the next. There's no suspense, very little plot and only a little bit of safe, protected conflict. I took way longer to read it than I should have.

(Though, perhaps I should blame the audiobook I'm listening to right now, which is FULL of suspense and heavy on plot for overshadowing this one.) ( )
  Wordbrarian | Mar 5, 2019 |
The story of Nobody "Bod" Owens, a toddler who is raised into adolescence by the ghosts of a graveyard, is one of those unexpected diamonds of a book that surprised not only five stars out of me but also a few tears at the end.

Some authors grow in their craft over the work and the years; some do not. Gaiman certainly has, if one reads this book alongside Neverwhere. Here the prose is tight, not a word wasted. So many things are left brilliantly unexplained. The wit is not so forced. Really this is a sparkling example of all-around great writing.

I hold great love for Bod's loyal guardians, especially Silas and Mrs. Lupescu. The vignette structure in the first half of the book, allowing time jumps of years as Bod grows up, is skillfully done. Really I have nothing but praise for this clever, understated, moving book. Now to choose my next Gaiman read... ( )
  AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
A mysterious killer known as "Jack" murders an entire family, but misses the baby, who crawls away and toddles into a nearby graveyard. There, he is adopted by the ghosts and other creatures who roam the graveyard and dubbed "Bod" for "Nobody". With his caretaker, Mr. Silas, and adoptive ghost parents, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, Nob grows up roving the graveyard, having adventures that include meeting the sinister Sleer who protects the old barrow in the center of the graveyard, is kidnapped by ghouls, and hunted by the killer who murdered his family.

The Graveyard Book defies any easy category. It is at times sweet, sinister, terrifying, creepy, eerie, and altogether lovely. There is no one aspect of the story that propels it to greatness, but the way each aspect works together to make the whole.

To start, the characters are drawn simply, save for Nob, and yet memorable. Jack, the villain who begins the novel by murdering an entire family, is shrouded in mystery. He is given very little description - deliberately - or even dialogue. The reader knows almost nothing about him, though hints are given that he is a professional undertaking a mission. Likewise, Silas actually plays a very small role in the book when considering his lines and appearances, but manages to be drawn powerfully enough to become a presence in the novel. All of the tenants of the graveyard are given roles to play and become as familiar and friendly to the readers as they are to Nob.

Gaiman never gives his reader anything, but makes them work for it. Though the word "vampire" is never explicitly used in the book, Silas is clearly one: the references to his having no reflection, the "fluttering" as he disappears into the night, and his assertions that he is neither alive nor dead. Similarly, the character Jack, and the later Jacks in the story, are told in the barest strokes, generally one defining feature giving you the silhouette of the entire character. Gaiman hints at their alien-ness; Jack can "smell" the girl and her fear, or follows Nob's scent trail. The reader knows that they are not quite human, but can never pinpoint what they are, exactly.

This is a defining trait of Gaiman's writing. He populates his books with hints and brief glimpses at the wonder of the world he is building. Who are the Honour Guard? What is Kandar? What is the Macabray? With a teasing glimpse behind the curtain, Gaiman draws the reader in and invites them to make themselves at home in this world. The Sleer is possibly the greatest example of this. Described almost entirely in the sound its voice makes when it speaks, Gaiman still manages to convey a feeling of an ancient menace, dry skin brushing against the walls of the barrow, and too many heads for one body. At the very end, Gaiman does show the reader the entire stage, and if there were any complaint to be had in this book, it is that. Jack Frost fails to be as sinister when he begins talking to Nob; his menace was in his intrigue. The Sleer, likewise, becomes somehow less threatening when shown completely. Still, there is plenty fun to be had in imagining what horrors Gaiman has created that are sneaking from under the curtain, and the complaint cannot stand against the richness of the writing.

Gaiman's writing is as witty and quirky as ever. There is never a reference to a ghost occupying the graveyard without an accompanying note on their dates of death and epitaph, usually a humorous reference to the person's character while they were alive. Nob is very much a child, but a clever one, and though he makes some regrettable decisions, he never becomes whiny or annoys the reader. He is curious, brave, smart, and an enjoyable character to follow. Silas, too, makes an appearance just long enough to tantalize the reader before fading into the background once more to let Nob steal the show. The "Jack of All Trades" or "Jack of Knaves" organization is quietly inventive; the reader cannot help but inwardly read them in his or her head: "Jack Frost, Jack Dandy, Jack Nimble...".

The plotting is unusual. The chapters feel episodic, offering brief vignettes of Nob's life as he grows up, and the reader does not suspect, until the very end, that they will all play a part in the final showdown. The book comes full circle: Nob's first adventure is in meeting Scarlett, who returns at the end of the book and sets off the chain of events leading to Jack and Nob finally meeting; the tomb through which Nob was taken by the ghouls plays a large factor in the end confrontation; and the Sleer is pivotal in the end to defeating Jack Frost.

The ending is bittersweet. The characters that Nob love, and that the reader has likewise grown to love, know that Nob must leave. Others, like Miss Lupescu, are even dispatched. Silas is Nob's guardian no more. Here is a curiosity: the sweetness is not in Nob eagerly thinking about the adventures he will have or the places he will go, but in his realization that he will, inevitably, once again meet them when he finally rides with the Lady on the Grey. Only an author as talented as Gaiman could make death itself a tender, sweet moment.

Many of the reviews seemed to have given up on trying to summarize The Graveyard Book and simply throw an olio of adjectives at it: witty, creepy, tender, exciting, funny, scary... All of them apply. Comedy horror is extremely difficult to do well; in this, Gaiman has managed to do comedy-horror-coming of age - mystery and more. The world is fantastical, but like Nob, lives on the border. Rather than creating an entirely new world, Gaiman appears to be showing us the one that niggles just at the edge of our consciousness. After reading this book, one cannot help but wonder what goes on in the graveyard at night. ( )
  kittyjay | Feb 28, 2019 |
This book is gorgeous. Wonderful. Stupendous. I'm not sure how many other words I can come up with to describe it, but the fact remains that it was one of the best stories I've had the pleasure to dive into this year. To those of you who might not have read Neil Gaiman's work before, it is always very layered. Enjoyable at any age, but the older you are the more you can see the hidden story line beneath everything else. This story is no different. The Graveyard Book is a story about humanity, friendship, and the age old battle of growing up.

Nobody Owens (Bod for short), looses his family in a grisly murder. Sad, I know. However what happens next is magic. Taken in by the inhabitants of the graveyard that he wanders into, Bod soon learns so much more than he ever imagined. I loved the way that Gaiman shows Bod's different stages of life. At a young age, Bod is smart and curious. As he grows, his questions turn from simple curiosity, to actual life lessons that he is trying to learn. Each of the graveyard members is unique and vibrant. From long dead war heroes, to simple folk who keep to themselves, the graveyard is a bustling place for a young boy to grow up.

What will really draw you into The Graveyard Book though is the writing. Neil Gaiman's writing is one of the reasons I fell in love with his books in the first place. Every page is filled with gorgeous prose, vivid descriptions, and witty observations. Bod's story, in particular, has a lovely mix of mischief, magic and horror. There were portions of this book that had me shivering in my boots. Well, shoes. Anyhow, it is really the ability to get so wholly lost in this story that really makes it a great read. You'll find yourself in the graveyard, and chances are you won't want to leave.

I'm not sure how else to implore you to read this book. The writing, the characters, the whole entire vibe is just pure ambrosia. There are moments that will break your heart, and others that will startle you with their sudden appearance. Whether this is your first foray into Gaiman's brilliantly woven worlds, or you're an avid fan, this is a book that is sure to delight. ( )
  roses7184 | Feb 5, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 1067 (next | show all)
Gaiman writes with charm and humor, and again he has a real winner.
added by lampbane | editVOYA, Rayna Patton (Jul 24, 2009)
Like a bite of dark Halloween chocolate, this novel proves rich, bittersweet and very satisfying.
This is fine work, from beginning to end, and the best bedtime story read-aloud material I've encountered in a long time. Can't wait until my daughter's old enough to read this to.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Oct 10, 2008)
When the chilling moments do come, they are as genuinely frightening as only Gaiman can make them, and redeem any shortcomings.
While “The Graveyard Book” will entertain people of all ages, it’s especially a tale for children. Gaiman’s remarkable cemetery is a place that children more than anyone would want to visit. They would certainly want to look for Silas in his chapel, maybe climb down (if they were as brave as Bod) to the oldest burial chamber, or (if they were as reckless) search for the ghoul gate. Children will appreciate Bod’s occasional mistakes and bad manners, and relish his good acts and eventual great ones. The story’s language and humor are sophisticated, but Gaiman respects his readers and trusts them to understand.

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neil Gaimanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Iacobaci, GiuseppeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKean, DaveIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parpola, InkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Plouhinec, Valérie LeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riddell, ChrisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Rattle his bones
Over the stones
It's only a pauper
Who nobody owns

-- Traditional Nursery Rhyme
First words
There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
Fortinbras Bartleby, ten years old when he had died (of consumption, he had told Bod, who had mistakenly believed for several years that Fortinbras had been eaten by lions or bears, and was extremely disappointed to learn it was merely a disease), now apologized to Bod.
“You’re always you, and that doesn’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Nehemiah Trot said, “Ah, list to me, young Leander, young Hero, young Alexander. If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”
“And for that reason, if for no other, it is vital that the child be raised with as little disruption as possible to the, if you’ll forgive the expression, the life of the graveyard.”
"It's like the people who believe they'll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn't work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you." p. 104
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is the original prose book. Please don't combine it with any other format (Graphic novel, movie, etc).
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Book description
Nobody Owens lost his "really" family when he was infant and became adopted by a ghost family in his local cemetery. Aside from having ghosts for parents and guardians he also persued by the mysterious man who killed his family.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060530928, Hardcover)

In The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman has created a charming allegory of childhood. Although the book opens with a scary scene--a family is stabbed to death by "a man named Jack” --the story quickly moves into more child-friendly storytelling. The sole survivor of the attack--an 18-month-old baby--escapes his crib and his house, and toddles to a nearby graveyard. Quickly recognizing that the baby is orphaned, the graveyard's ghostly residents adopt him, name him Nobody ("Bod"), and allow him to live in their tomb. Taking inspiration from Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Gaiman describes how the toddler navigates among the headstones, asking a lot of questions and picking up the tricks of the living and the dead. In serial-like episodes, the story follows Bod's progress as he grows from baby to teen, learning life’s lessons amid a cadre of the long-dead, ghouls, witches, intermittent human interlopers. A pallid, nocturnal guardian named Silas ensures that Bod receives food, books, and anything else he might need from the human world. Whenever the boy strays from his usual play among the headstones, he finds new dangers, learns his limitations and strengths, and acquires the skills he needs to survive within the confines of the graveyard and in wider world beyond. (ages 10 and up) -–Heidi Broadhead

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:56 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Nobody Owens is a normal boy, except that he has been raised by ghosts and other denizens of the graveyard.

(summary from another edition)

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