Everything I’ve read by Neal Gaiman lately has been fabulous and The Graveyard Book was no exception. His latest work has that wonderful mix of elements – love, loss, humor, fear and above all, that understated quality of things left unsaid that is just SO compelling.
We first meet young Bod (short for Nobody Owens) the night his parents were killed. Toddling about with his family’s killer hot on his trail, Bod happens across a local graveyard where a couple of ghosts decide to raise him as their own with the aid of the mysterious Silas who becomes his guardian.
So Nobody Owens is raised in a graveyard and like any little boy must learn through school and his mistakes and as readers we are witnesses to both. More often than not, Bod’s mistakes are quite serious and require some major rescuing by various graveyard inhabitants in order to fix. Each instance brings new information, skills and truths to light while morals are discovered and friends are made without being sugar-sweet or forced upon the reader. His formal education is overseen by various ghosts who recount firsthand life in times long past which give Bod a unique understanding of history but provide little help in dealing with the technology or challenges of the present day.
Perhaps it is because he was raised by ghosts but Bod is fearless and fearless kids are always wonderful to read about. They have an innate understanding that the whole world is completely open to them to do or be anything they want. Bod embodies this spirit of discovery and I am so glad a book such as this won the Newbery Award. I hope it will encourage children to venture out into the world to make mistakes, love others, learn new things and above all experience every bit of life they can.