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The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

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Genre: Horror / Author: Neil Gaiman / Edition: Children's ed / Hardcover / 304 Pages / Book is published 2008-10-20 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

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    9 Reviews
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      24.06.2012 15:54
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      Gaiman's award winning children's book about a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard

      Gaiman/Midas - it's all the same to me. Everything the guy touches seems to turn to gold. I mean, he has pioneered a modern style of comic book writing, he stretches the boundaries of children's fiction, has co-produced an awarded winning film (based on a comic book he created!) and has a silky way of putting words onto a page. He has even written an episode of Doctor Who!

      Working my way through the recent World Book Day top 100 books, it was a no brainer which one to read next. The Graveyard Book is one that provides a sort of transition between children's and adult fiction - it appeals to both, in plot, style and presentation. Neil Gaiman writes what he wants, finding inspiration in all manner of places, and this time it started years ago with his 2 year old son on a tricycle in a graveyard.

      Gaiman's story starts in gruesome fashion, warranting the warning that this will not be suitable the younger readers. A sinister character, the man Jack, slinks through a house, killing the two adults and one of the two children. The only remaining member of the family, a toddler, ambles out through the front door, up the hill and into the graveyard there. The boy subsequently meets, and is raised by, the ghosts inhabiting the graveyard, kept safe by the Guardian Silas, and as he grows older so does his curiosity for humanity and his will to get involved with the real world. Meanwhile, the man Jack travels the world, trying to find the boy he was sent to kill...

      It's all a bit Harry Potter, mixed with the Jungle Book, and set in a graveyard. If you wanted to sum it up, this would be how. The book is split into 8 chapters, and while each one follows suit, they're almost like individual stories in themselves. Each chapter sees the young boy, named Nobody Owens by his adoptive ghost parents ('Bod' for short), have an adventure revealing different characters and exploring elements of the ghosts' world. Gaiman seems to use it as an excuse to reveal some of his more macabre creations, as well as some who have direct impact on the story.

      It's interesting to see Bod grow up, and also the interaction he has at first with the ghosts in the graveyard, and then as he gets older he more sinister characters and then some of the living as Silas releases his strict rules to a certain extent and allow Bod to experience more of the world he should belong to. You get the feeling all throughout that we're not really being told very much, it's all done on trust and faith. Faith that the author knows what he is doing and that it'll be clear towards the end. I did find there was clarity, but the explanations were sparse and again assumed you would just accept them without the depth they may need.

      Depth is actually an issue throughout the book, but then this is the mark of a children's book, and we mustn't forget that's what this book is, first and foremost. The lack of depth stretches throughout, with characters as well as events, so we get the purest of opinions of them. The loving ghost mother, the distant ghost father, the stern and defensive Guardian, the dark and murderous man Jack, the curious and inquisitive, eager to please Bod - and these are just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, it loses some of the visual elements the mind would conjure given more details, but the consistency justifies this enough to not affect enjoyment.

      It's very well written, as all things Gaiman tend to be. I loved the imaginative elements, and the perception of those little things that you can't explain: the feeling someone is watching you, the shivers down your spine, thinking you've seen someone but there doesn't seem to be anyone there. This is part of the fantasy/sci-fi element that Gaiman often shows strength in, the darker nature of his writing character coming through here just as it did in Coraline. Incidentally, the director of the film adaptation of Coraline has also signed on to bring this book to the screen as well.

      This gets a huge thumbs up from me. It's certainly refreshing to see a children's book that pushes the boundaries and doesn't sugar coat things, giving some darkness to events but maintaining the focus of appropriate style. This levels it out and I devoured this book. Lovely to read, the mystery for the reader as much as the characters. Exciting finish and a great book. Recommended.

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      17.04.2011 22:57
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      The story follows a little boy called Bod, or Nobody Owens, through his life living in a graveyard from a baby til he's 'grown'. His family are the ghosts that have inhabited the graveyard since their bodies were buried there centuries before.
      Bod knows that life outside the graveyard is dangerous for him so sticks to the graveyard except for a few outings later on the his life. He makes friends and has fun and adventures until his past comes back to him.

      The story has all the imagination that you want from a book that's aimed at all ages. Though perhaps a little scary for younger readers! I love it when you can read a book and be fascinated by the different worlds that are collected together without many people even noticing. The living, the dead and even the undead come together in this story and the imagination behind it is incredible!

      The adventures Bod has push your imagination to the limit when you start to think about the people and things he encounters look like and the way they act. His life is a crazy adventure in itself because of The man Jack who killed Bods real family when he was only a baby. The way that Gaiman writes aids the imagination so well in that his words flow so well with the action. Gaimans writing also makes it possible to be met with frighting characters whilst not being scared but at the same time in full suspense of what is going to come next as it could be a terrifying situation.I didn't know what to expect from the book at first. I knew it was more or less aimed at younger readers but as with Coraline I guessed that the age of reader doesnt matter as much as the imagination that the reader has. I think to fully enjoy the story of The Graveyard book you have to let your imagination run

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      08.02.2011 17:53
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      A great idea, perhaps it could have been better, but it could have been a whole lot worse

      This book was recommended to me by a friend. I'd heard of it, being a Neil Gaiman fan I was very much aware of it, and I'm quite ashamed to say the only thing that repelled me for so long were the illustrations! (Sorry Chris Riddell, no offence meant!)

      It sounds like the perfect spooky tale doesn't it? I boy raised in the graveyard by ghosts, and a mysterious man named Cyrus who comes and goes as he pleases. But there is something more unusual about Bod; he was born a normal boy, and his parents are murdered by a man named Jack, and somehow, he escaped. The story centres around Bod's mission to find out who he is, and why he ended up where he did. There is also an appearance from a werewolf disguised as a teacher, which oddly, worked.

      My description of this plot is vague and I apologise for that, but after Coraline I have exceedingly high expectations of Neil Gaiman's children's books. Unfortunately, and I really hate to say it of one of my favourite authors, but The Graveyard Book didn't really tick any boxes. The plot seemed rushed and in some places just bizarre. A brief trip into the underworld was entertaining to read but I was left wondering what was going on. If anything this book was formed of a series of smaller stories in which Bod makes contact with different characters, and then looses it again. I did like the way it tied up, but I wont ruin it for you.

      If anything it felt like this had been written over a long period of time, where the author was interested at some points then bored in others. There are too many examples of where characters could have developed but were instead discarded, where they could probably have thickened the plot.

      If anything this rather reminded me of Odd and the Frost Giants, seeming rushed and over too quickly with me wondering what happened.
      Luckily, I didn't let The Graveyard Book put me off, and I suppose when you write something as dark and dangerous as Coraline it's hard to make another villain quite as terrifying as the Other Mother!

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      03.08.2010 12:01
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      Dark enjoyment. Not just for children.

      "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." This is the gripping opening to 'The Graveyard Book'. As his family are brutally murdered, a baby toddles away to a graveyard, where he is quickly enveloped by a world of ghosts and other supernatural beings. Educated by ghosts and monitored by a Guardian who is neither living nor dead, Nobody Owens ('Bod' for short) initially accepts his life in the graveyard. As he grows older, he yearns to be part of the living world, but somewhere out there lurks a killer who is determined to destroy him...

      This fantastical story has been marketed as a crossover book (one which is designed to appeal to adults and children) and certainly seems to have hit the mark. Nominated for and winner of several prizes for children's fiction, including the Carnegie Medal, the book has received much popular acclaim. So what is it like?

      == A grave fantasy ==

      From the beginning and throughout the book is deeply atmospheric and dark. In chapter one, 'wisps of night-time mist slithered and twined into the house through the open door' as the murderer hunts for the baby. There is a strong focus on smell which at once helps to bring the scenes to life, but also emphasises the supernatural nature of the characters, whose senses seem heightened.

      If the fantastical nature of the story wasn't clear from the grey drawings sprinkled throughout the text, it would be obvious from the baby's ability to shed his human garments and toddle, naked, up a hill to reach a graveyard. Despite this clear movement towards a fantasy world, the real appeal of the story is in the humanity of the central character; Bod is a typical child: largely obedient, wanting to please, but innately curious and keen on fairness. He is an appealing character and, unsurprisingly, given that his whole family is murdered and he is hunted by a man with a knife, the reader cares about him from early on.

      == A move from the Jungle to the Graveyard ==

      The book is organised into 8 chapters but has 307 pages, so many of the chapters are very long. In fact, I would argue that for a children's book they are really too long and it would have been nice if they had been separated into sections to make the book a bit more readable. The length seems to be because each chapter is really an episode in itself and can be read almost without reference to the others. The titles of the chapters indicate that each is a mini-story following Bod's progress towards adulthood. Some stories are focused on friendship, others on strange creatures or on Bod's education, but they are all very dark and the world outside in the graveyard is, in many ways, darker than the world within. Certainly, the live people Bod meets are much more manipulative than the dead and his Guardian's desire to keep him in the graveyard begins to seem very wise.

      Some characters are recurring while others appear only once or twice. All are briefly sketched and there is no character development: thus, Bod's adopted mother is loving and friendly; his Guardian is mysterious and unknowable; the poet is insufferable in his vanity. This is not a problem in the world of the novel as each character slips in and out of the tale when required, and Bod himself does learn and develop as the stories progress. Some of the dialogue is entertaining and the interaction between characters in the graveyard often helps to make the story feel a little lighter.

      Gaiman states in the acknowledgements that he owes a debt to Kipling's 'The Jungle Book' and it seems that he wanted to create a similar tale of a disparate group of non-traditional guardians bringing up an orphaned baby. I am unable to comment on the similarities because it has been far too many years since I read 'The Jungle Book', but I would anticipate that if you have read that recently, it could be fun to make the links to this book. Like Mowgli, (and that more modern orphan, Harry Potter,) Bod seems to have a destiny: he must confront the man who killed his family. This is couched in both human and supernatural terms: it is Bod's destiny, but he does also want revenge and the horror of his actions is underscored by another character. My one disappointment with the book would be the explanation for the murder of Bod's family as I didn't think it was sufficiently clear or developed.

      == An exceedingly minor irritation ==

      In the first chapter, the killer is described as 'the man Jack' throughout. Why not just 'Jack' or 'the man'? I agree that somehow 'the man Jack' is a creepier description, on the first occasion, but not when it is repeated consistently. I found that this, albeit very minor point, disrupted my enjoyment of the first chapter, which was a shame because otherwise Gaiman has a very fluid style of writing and he successfully creates a dark atmosphere throughout the story.

      == Conclusions ==

      A dark fantasy that features a likeable central character and a lively background cast. The setting is atmospheric and the action delightfully unbelievable. Gaiman paints humanity in a rather dark light and is not afraid to suggest that bad things happen - Bod will never have everything he wants - but the story ends on a note of hope and with a definite sense of closure. Unlike so many children's books, this is not part of a series and is all the better for it. The central storyline winds through the tales, but the real interest is in the mini stories, the chapters, especially seeing how Bod interacts with the real world.

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        01.07.2010 15:16
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        A great book for people of all ages

        In the darkness, was a knife.

        Neil Gaiman's dark, witty and fantastically written children's book begins, as all children's books should, with a knife, and a murder. Well, more than one murder. It starts out with a young boy who, after escaping (as a toddler) the murder of his family by the mysterious Jack, crawls into a graveyard and is raised by ghosts. The book is divided into small episodes of the boy's life, growing up, meeting new people, getting into all kinds of adventures and everything building up to the final confrontation which will shape his future life forever.

        Nobody Owens, the protagonist, is aided by his guardian and mentor Silas, his teacher Miss Lupescu, the ghost of witch Liza Hempstock and his only human friend Scarlett as the story unfolds and we learn the true intentions of the Man Jack, and the Jack of all Trades society.

        ---

        This story, obviously a take on the Jungle Book, works fine by itself. A couple of the stories are obviously heavily inspired by some of the short stories from the Jungle Books.

        The Graveyard Book is beautifully written, and the short stories work really well together to make this one overall plot, which wouldn't have worked otherwise, as it happens over a lot of years and we get to see the boy grow up in the process.

        I found the Graveyard Book to be a really interesting read and found it quite hard to put down, and although it's marketed as a children's books, like all the greats of the day and age (like, say, Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men series), what might be a children's book is still hugely accessible to adults. It's dark, but not too dark and although it deals strongly with the subject of death and the afterlife, and there is quite a sense of danger throughout the book, it's nothing you didn't get watching the end of Corpse Bride, or Coraline or anything.

        And as is typical with the style that Gaiman has brought us, he manages to twist the world we know around. He brings this world of death to us from the very beginning and establishes it as the "safe" world, while the outside world is the dangerous one.

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        22.02.2010 23:55
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        fantastic childrens book

        PLOT
        The man Jack has a job to do and a whole family to kill. After finishing off the mother, father and eldest child he realises that their son is not in the crib he should be in. Having learnt how to walk at barely older than 1 years old he has escaped and gone for a midnight walk to the local graveyard, where the man Jack follows him to. However, having had his whole family just killed, and with a killer on his trail the residence of the graveyard decide to take in the toddler and he is adopted into one of the resident family to ensure his safety. The family in question are of course ghosts.

        Nobody Owens (Bod) is a young boy growing up in the graveyard. He understandably has quite a different childhood from children his age, almost of his acquaintances are ghost, apart from Silas who is neither alive nor dead and who is the only person who can leave the graveyard to get Bod his food, clothes, and other daily necessities. Bod has the freedom of the graveyard, meaning that he is able to see and talk to the ghost that live there, he can move through walls, make himself invisible and invade peoples dreams. Bods story tells of what happens when a boy is brought up by a family of ghosts who live in a graveyard, but a lot more than that too. Bods is aware that he different from everyone he knows and soon starts asking questions and wondering what happened to his family and why. There is a mystery to be solved, but how would you investigate when you live in a graveyard and all your friends are already dead?

        OPINION
        I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman, I've read his books for adults and seen his movie adaptations, but this is the first childrens book of his that I have gotten around to reading, and I wasn't disappointed. This is by far one of the best childrens books I have ever read.

        The story starts off exciting, with Bod as a baby the death of his human parents and the start of his new life in the graveyard and then consists of different stories about his life there up until he is about 12 when everything comes together. Although the book is kind of made up of short stories the theme of Bods parents death and what this means is current throughout. This works really well, it means that the book can be fast paced and interesting, a lot of things happen which are great to read, but there is still a real story in the book. The stories of what happen to Bod are all very different, there is certainly nothing samey here. He travels through a ghoul gate and is almost eaten by a bunch of ghouls, he makes friends with a witch and takes on a pair of bullies when he tries to go to the local school.

        I think that following Bod as he grows up works very well, rather than just reading about a certain point in his life. Not only does it give the opportunity to tell a variety of stories I think it makes the reader able to relate and sympathise with him. This is after all a childrens book, and I think it is good to see what happens when a child grows up with something traumatic having happened to them, how this gets explained to them in stages and how they come to terms with it as they grow up and gain more understanding.

        I can imagine children loving this. It's creepy and fun and indeed very very different. Due to the nature of the book I think that there are probably a couple of parts which could scare the more delicate children a little bit, but then I assume they would not want to read a book about a boy who had been adopted by ghosts. As an adult and a fan of Gaimans other books this is also a terrific read, i shall definitely be recommending this to anyone I think will read it!

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          16.01.2010 11:40
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          Every child I know has loved it.

          I first saw this book when it was in hardback and couldn't wait for it to be released in paperback. The front cover and even the title make it look like it should be THE book every child wants to read. Then when I read the first chapter I thought I might change my mind. The horror of the murder of Nobody Owen's family, complete with gory descriptions of the bloody knife, was surely enough to give children nightmares. However, the children I shared this book with assured me they were not scared at all (just me then!)

          After this initial grab-the-reader opening, the story settles down a bit and you learn about Bod, as he is known, growing up in the graveyard and being raised by ghosts and the strange and mysterious Silas, the only other person who has been granted the Freedom of the Graveyard. Bod has a few surreal adventures underground where you can all but see the stop-motion animation of the film forming in your minds eye. Very clever writing. These adventures at first seem like unnecessary padding and don't seem to move the story along at all except to allow the reader to watch Bod grow. I read it and just wanted them to get to the point where Bod would be old enough for the real story to start. But in the end there was a point to it all.

          When we do get to the main body of the story (if you'll pardon the pun) the story ticks along nicely and is almost unputdownable. The ending is very cleverly worked out and the final chapter quite tear-provoking. The characters are very well drawn, and the baddies, whose point of view some of the chapters are told through, are very baddie-like and just the sort to appeal to children. The character of Silas was a bit too subtly drawn for the children I shared the book with - some of them just didn't get who he was (I shall say no more for fear of spoiling it) - but I thought it was very clever.

          The whole story is great and a must for children and adults alike, who like their fantasy/horror with a touch of intelligence (just remember guys - it is aimed at children!)

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            12.01.2010 01:51
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            Excellent for any fan of reading.

            As an avid reader, I always seek out new books, and I find that children's literature is particularily exciting. Neil Gaiman's 'The Graveyard Book' is no exception.
            It's about a young boy, Nobody Owens, and orphan from a terrible murder who wandered into a graveyard as a baby and was taken into the care of the ghosts that resided there. However, the man who killed his family is still out in the real world and is still looking.
            Despite this setting, the book does not unfold in a conventional way. Gaiman writes about Bod (as he is nicknamed) as he grows up, and about discoveries he makes in the graveyard, and in particular the relationships he forms.
            There are so many ideas explained in the book, yet not a single one of them seems long winded or far fetched, and instead makes the reader long to hear more about Bod's life. However, this longing is never satisfied, but somehow you feel it's for the best.
            Despite being set in a graveyard, the book is never morbid, and builds to and exciting end. Considering that there's a movie in the works, it's a good reflection on how good this book really is.

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              27.07.2009 10:57
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              This is another book from www.bookcrossing.com. It was in a bookring/ray and I decided to join it. You could say I was very stupid, based on the fact that I happened to have signed up on about 20 bookrings/rays, and that means I have to stop what ever book I'm currently reading and read that so that I can keep it on its travels. I ended up having 3 books, which were in either bookrings or book rays, and so I desperately needed to finish them!

              Neil Gaiman is a really good author and is an inspiration to everyone. But only last year, I had never came across such a name and an author. I have to thank one of you guys, because after watching "Stardust" the film, one of you mentioned that it was based on a book, and you also suggested that I should read "Neverwhere" to get a feel for his type of writing. I hold up my hands and announce that I did buy that book in January 2009. So why is there no sign of a review from me on that book? Well, it is on my shelf staring at me and begging me to read it, but I have a few other books that have been on my shelf for donkey years, that really need to come down from the shelves and be read. So eventually you will find a review on that book, but for the time being, you may dwell in my other book reviews which are catching up with me!

              So I went against the advice somebody gave me, and decided to read this book. It wasn't really my fault, I ended up thinking that by the time the book got to me I would have read "Neverwhere" how more wrong could I be?

              This book follows a boy called Bod (short for Nobody). He lives in the Graveyard and he can see the spirits of the people about the graves. You follow his little story of why he's in there and his very many little adventures! He meets a dead witch, and a human girl, and not only that but he goes down a very life-threatening ghoul-gate!

              Now I am extremely sorry for my plot outline. But I can't help it, if I think about the book as a story then there wasn't much to it, it was kept really, really simple, and it seemed to me that there is only a few many things, a person, who lives in a graveyard, can do! So it wasn't filled with as many adventures as possible. I think what did the book for everyone was the way Neil Gaiman made it seem real. And that what makes a book brilliant (in my opinion).

              There were only 2 things that annoyed me about this book, and that is what made it drop 2 stars. The first and the more prominent of the two were obviously the chapters. There are only 8 chapters in this book and there are over 200 pages. Chapter 7 is the worst chapter. This can be considered really annoying, based on the fact that if you are a midnight reader (well that's what I call it, where you read before you go to bed), like I do, then this book would drive you up the wall. Also if you don't have enough spare time, you can't possibly stop. There is no place to stop reading, to do something else, only the chapters are the right place to leave it.

              The second thing that annoyed me was the way in which the book felt as if it wasn't finished. Okay so I understand that not all books have to have an epilogue but it's a great way to finish a book, and not only that some books still get a proper ending. I like to think of the way in which this was unfinished. I have rarely come across a book that has not got an ending! This book is obviously left this way for one of these 2 reasons (I think): The first one that comes to mind is that there is supposed to be a sequel. I very much doubt that because it wouldn't be able to lead on from that story and it'll have nothing to do with the graveyard and no where near a proper link. So it has to be the other option I've been thinking of and that is, it's left that way so that the reader's can create the ending. If my second guess was right, then obviously he's done this on purpose. But this annoys me, I read a book so that I can escape from my life and enter somebody else's and make it feel as if I'm that person. This book made me that person, until the very end where it just leaves the boy and that's why books like these aren't suited for me!

              On the other hand, you have all these good things about the book. Such as the characters. There was the obvious distinct main character of Nobody Owens, but to be totally honest I'm not sure whether any of the others mentioned in the book was either main or minor, there's no way to distinct that, which made it a really good book. There was the way in which Neil Gaiman made it seem all real and alive, and made you feel the emotions easily. Also, the way in which he added a vampire and a werewolf, without giving off distinct titles, as if there wasn't a word in the dictionary such as: a vampire, but you knew what he was. I could keep on listing these good points, but I don't want to bore you.

              Well all I have left to say is that you should really buy this book, or if you ever get the chance get it free of your friend or use bookcrossing.com, any way you get this book doesn't matter, it only matters if you read it!

              Thank you all for reading and I sure hope I have interested some of you into buying this book, if I have not then fair enough; everyone is entitled to their opinion! Keep on rating and reviewing my reviews!

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