Gaiman's book is perfect for getting into the Halloween mood. This Newbery Award winner is an amazing book for young readers and adults. The book tells the coming-of-age story of Nobody Owens (Bod), whose family was murdered when he was just a baby. Baby Bod managed to escape by toddling out of his crib, up the street, and into the local graveyard, whose ghostly residents took him in to save his life. They grant him the Protection of the Graveyard, which allows him to learn how to disappear into shadow, slide through solid objects, and even haunt peoples' dreams. As Bod grows up, however, the residents of the graveyard stay as they are, and Bod realizes that he does not truly belong among either the dead or the living.
The Graveyard Book was inspired partially by Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book -- both tell the stories of young boys cast out of human societies and raised by others, and both Bod and Mowgli struggle to find their places in the world. But The Graveyard Book is about more than just a quest for identity: it is also about friendship, and taking risks, and learning from your mistakes, and yes, about death. However, since Bod was raised in a graveyard by a family of ghosts, death is not scary for him. When his caretaker, Silas, tries to convince Bod that he must start attending school with the living, Bod remarks, "But everyone I know is dead." This familiarity with death takes away the scariness of it, and may be useful in opening a dialogue about a difficult subject between parents and children.
I heartily recommend The Graveyard Book for adults and children alike. (The 8-12 age group should be able to handle the themes and the few "scary" scenes.) Author Neil Gaiman's strengths are creating enchanting new worlds and engaging, memorable characters, and his skill in these areas is what will draw all readers in. Even a graveyard becomes a home full of eccentric family members from various historical eras, and even a boy raised among the dead learns to embrace life. The Graveyard Book is not a book you want to miss!
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