23. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Dave McKean

Pages: 309
Finished: Feb. 3, 2009
First Published: Sept. 30, 2008
Genre: children, fantasy
Award: Newbery Medal
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: Just won this year's Newbery Award. Newbery Project

First sentence:

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife."

Comments: After his family is killed a baby escapes by wandering out the open door and making his way to the graveyard. A married ghostly couple adopt him and name him Nobody Owens, Bod for short. Nobody then commences to grow up in the graveyard and can see and talk with all the ghosts of those buried there. In fact, he himself is not quite in the land of the living but somewhere between the life and death. He must stay here in the graveyard until he is old enough to look after himself on the outside as the man who killed his family is still looking for him and will continue until his job is completed.

I really enjoyed this book. Finally a 21st century Newbery winner I can rave about and recommend. The story and the characters are just wonderful. I really enjoyed the premise. It reminded me a bit, at first, of Terry Pratchett's Johnny and the Dead even though the plot's are completely different. Even though I don't believe in ghosts and my religion tells me differently what will happen in the afterlife, it still is so much fun to imagine a world of ghosts. To imagine graveyards are full of the people buried there talking to each other. The book is really well written, fun and exciting. I think this is the type of book that will appeal to pretty much anyone, even those who don't like fantasy as a rule. Finally a Newbery winner that *will* be enjoyed through the ages!

My only reason for not giving a full rating of 5 is that I really did not like the illustrations at all. They were dark, hard to see the details and I thought the faces were horrible. They definitely did not enhance the reading experience at all. From looking at covers at LibraryThing I see there is an edition with illustrations by Chris Riddell. Now that is someone whose art I appreciate and I'd love to have a look at those illustrations.


  1. I find that interesting that there is a different illustrator in your copy. Here in England we have the Chris Riddell illustrations which I thought went with the story quite well..

  2. Yeah, I can't understand why they'd change the illustrations for North America. We have all the Paul Stewart/Chris Riddell books here so it's not like North Americans wouldn't know who Riddell is. I'm sure they are much superior to the ones we got, which are blah.

  3. I din't really care for the artwork, either. I'd love to get my hands on a UK edition.

  4. I loved this as well. t's like a whole series of short stories all linking together. I have the Dean McKean version and my husband has the Chris Riddell version which is cool. Both versions are out in the UK, one in the teenage section (Riddell) and the fantasy section (McKean).

  5. Interesting. My major problem with The Sandman was the artwork as well.

  6. I didn't like the illustrations either but I truly loved this book. I actually cried a little when I finished it!

  7. I did not like the illustrations either. My husband thought this was the worst cover art he's ever seen.


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