This book took me little over four hours to get through, but it’s taken me about three weeks to actually write about it. I’ve been avoiding it because I’ve been trying to think of how I can write a full review of such a short book. While the pages weren’t long, they were very full, giving the impression of a small house that seems much larger when you go inside. I hadn’t read a children’s book in a while, so I forgot about how they tend to cover a lot of ground with little exposition. I wasn’t expecting it to be in the children’s section of the library, it took me a while to find until someone told me the ‘j’ on the call number stood for ‘juvenile’. I had to wade through the waist high shelves and bright colors to find it, and I think managed to do it without feeling too embarrassed. I didn’t even hang out in the kids section when I was a kid, so it felt a little weird.

I actually think it was in the wrong category, because I had already read Coraline, which was in the far less embarrassing young adult section, and The Graveyard Book seemed to be about on the same level to me. It seemed weird being grouped with the picture books and first readers. I was glad that it was written in an intelligent way, as with Coraline I kept thinking that I wished there were more books like it for kids and teenagers. It was easy to read, but not stilted and over-simplified. There were big words, old words, accents, and as with other books by Neil Gaiman, it was a celebration of language and imagination. Unlike the version of Coraline I read, this one wasn’t a full graphic novel, but had pen illustrations at each chapter. I really liked them, because the style matched the subject but they weren’t extremely detailed. The font was also easy to read and fitting. The headings, font, and illustrations all came together very well to frame the story.

The basis of the plot is that a baby boy, by chance and wileyness, escapes the murder of his family and wanders into a cemetery near his home. The ghosts residing there decide that they should keep him with them safe from whatever danger was outside the gates. They name him Nobody and teach him some ghostly powers. Silas, a resident of the graveyard who is neither dead or alive, becomes his guardian and uses his ability to interact with the outside world to bring him necessities. Nobody grows up among the graves and ghosts, learning to read from headstones, and receiving an extensive education in history. Each chapter addresses a new adventure for Nobody and his ghostly neighbors, and the lessons in the various happenings weren’t overbearing. It was also a good example of simple fantasy, the paranormal and supernatural related universe first lays out its rules, then obeys them. The basic formula makes it believable and easy to follow.

In the afterward, Gaiman explains that he conceived the idea for the book while watching his young son play in a graveyard, and that he imagined writing a story like The Jungle Book set in a cemetery. I haven’t read it in a while, but it seemed like there were a lot of parallels between the two stories, and I think that The Graveyard Book is a fitting homage to the classic. There are adventures, lessons, creativity, and a believably happy ending. This story is definitely worth reading at any age, even if you have to endure sideways looks to retrieve it from the depths of the kiddie section.

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