Friday, June 15, 2012

YA Book Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My 8th grade students speak of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book in a different key. Reverential, they utter the word "weird"...and then from that deepest pit of their bellies they almost always agree, "soooo good."

And then they say nothing else. The memory of the book makes them silent--as if they travel back into the experience for a moment.

Obviously, I'm processing my own thoughts about The Graveyard Book by recalling snippets of the reactions of my students--these were my first encounters with the novel. After the fifth or sixth similar reaction, I finally bought the book and read it over the course of a few days.

Gaiman builds the story around a prophecy--a child will be born who will end the reign of a magical, dark, organization. This group's power and influence has infiltrated all walks of society for thousands of years--and they very much would like to see this child dead.

They murder his family, but the infant escapes and finds itself protected and raised by phantasms of the graveyard--the dead rise, those neither living nor dead appear, and witches, ghouls, demons, and shape-shifters round out the rest of the cast.

And as Gaiman notes in his Newberry acceptance speech, he didn't write a book about childhood...he wrote a book about parenting. "It takes a village to raise a child" is deconstructed and reimagined as a graveyard.

I really liked the story--I too have that same visceral respect that I hear in my students' voices. You read this for the same reasons that you read Mary Shelley or watch a Tim Burton film--there are story tellers and there are artists who tell stories. Gaiman's work is art--and like so many museum-goers standing before Van Gogh's color and stroke or a larger-than-life Rothko, silence and awe speaks volumes.

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1 comment:

  1. I too love this book but struggle to get any of my 8th graders to bite. I am thinking of using it as a narrative partner with The Phantom Tollbooth. Thoughts?