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Imagine Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book"... but replace the animals with ghosts, ghouls, werewolves and other such supernatural creatures.

Such is the concept of "The Graveyard Book," which cleverly turns Kipling's classic story into an exquisitely-written, darkly witty fantasy. While it starts as the assorted supernatural adventures of a young boy raised by ghosts, the story slowly evolves into a beautifully ghastly confrontation between Nobody Owens and the people who want to do him harm.

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." A man named Jack kills an innocent family at night -- except for a baby boy, who toddles out to the graveyard.

With the approval of the Lady on the Grey, the Owens ghosts adopt the boy, whom they name Nobody (or "Bod" for short), and the mysterious not-dead-or-alive Silas is appointed his guardian. Bod slowly grows up, but his upbringing is hardly ordinary -- he is taught by a Hound of God, wanders into the horrific realm of Ghulheim, watches a danse macabre, and befriends a witch's spirit from the Potter's Field.

But the man named Jack is still out there, and for some reason he (and the organization he works for) still wants to kill Bod. And though Silas and the ghosts are trying to keep him safe, Bod is becoming curious about the world of living humans -- and about the man who murdered his family. And when they come for him, he'll be ready.

The world of Neil Gaiman is never a safe place -- it's always painted in shadows and shades of grey, and something horrible may be lurking around the corner. And the world of "The Graveyard Book" is no exception to this -- it's filled with strange supernatural creatures, hellish red cities with decayed moons overhead, and midnight parades where ghosts dance with the living.

The world of the graveyard is an intriguing one -- moonlight, crumbly headstones, a little stone church, and a creepy barrow where the Sleer lurk. From a lesser author this would be kind of boring, but Gaiman's beautiful prose brings it to life ("There was a silent implosion, a flutter of velvet darkness, and Silas was gone").

And Gaiman explores Bod's childhood with dark humour ("Can you imagine how fine a drink the black ichor that collects in leaden coffins can be?") and adventure. But the tone changes as Bod grows older, especially with the creepily professional Jack and his cohorts slowly closing in on him. It's a coming-of-age tale, and a bittersweet, sometimes terrifying one.

Bod himself is a lovable kid, who slowly explores first the world of the graveyard and then the world of the living. He's both ruthless and kind, sweet and strong. The mysterious Silas -- whose true nature is only revealed late in the book -- serves as a kindly but stern mentor, who pretty clearly loves young Bod like a father.

And there's a pretty wide supporting cast -- Bod's childhood friend Scarlett is rather bratty, but the ghosts make up for that. The snappy, witty witch Eliza, the kindly Owenses, Mother Slaughter, the fussy Mr. Pennyworth, and the schoolteacherish substitute guardian Miss Lupescu all round out the cast. And with only a few lines, Gaiman makes them seem practically real.

"The Graveyard Book" is a beautifully written, bittersweet coming-of-age tale with some moments of pure creepiness. A magnificent fantasy story, which is not to be missed.
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on 14 January 2009
I'd never read anything by Neil Gaiman before; "Not my thing", I'd decided. Then I watched the film adaptation of Startdust and thought maybe I'd give it a try after all. But I never did. And then all the publicity for The Graveyard Book started appearing ... and talk about judging a book by its cover. As a school librarian I should be ashamed to admit it but I decided to read the book purely because of the magnificent cover by Chris Riddell! I probably wouldn't have bothered if only the David McKean cover had been available. And what a mistake that would have been! Because WOW, what a book!
Bod is only a toddler when his whole family is murdered by the Man Jack; narrowly escaping, he takes refuge in a nearby graveyard. After many discussions, the ghostly inhabitants decide to look after him and he is adopted by Mr and Mrs Owens. Under the watchful eye of his guardian Silas, Bod grows up as a living boy in a dead man's world, with all the abilities of a ghost. But the Man Jack cannot rest until he has finished the job and is still on the lookout for Bod.
This is a fantastic fantasy book and a great coming-of-age book. There is lots of action, plenty of twists (some of them I did not see coming!) and enough gory creatures to keep fans of this genre entertained. But most of all, it is an amazing love story. Gaiman writes so well you forget that Bod's parents are in fact ghosts and his guardian a vampire; what you take away from this story is the sheer feeling of devotion for a child (the last chapter was heart-breaking for me but I think that's just because I am a mum and the thought of "letting go" of your child is quite hard!).
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on 20 October 2008
What one word best describes this tale of an infant whose whole family are murdered, and who toddles to the safety of a local graveyard, where he's raised and educated by the resident dead? That word, surprisingly, would be "charming".

And it is, in every sense of the word. It's eloquent without being condescending, comforting without being soft, sharp without being bitter, and it captivates your attention throughout its entirety, leaving you perfectly satisfied by the end.

The cast of characters are written to perfection. The dead maintain an eerie timelessness, whilst the other supernatural creatures are subtle yet distinct, ("Silas ate only one food, and it was not bananas"); the villains pull off the trick of being both evil *and* credible; the living have a refreshing mundane quality, and Bod the protagonist is left with the uneasy struggle of being neither fish nor fowl (nor dead).

A delight to read and a joy to think about.
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on 11 October 2008
Brilliant - sinister, lyrical and poignant all at the same time. Like 'The Jungle Book', it's a great evocation of growing up as an outsider, and the world is vivid and perfectly imagined; and, like 'The Jungle Book', the narrative voice is faultless. But it has more narrative tension than 'The Jungle Book', and a grimmer edge - the gothic elements (ghosts, werewolves, vampires) are picturesque without being cliched, and occasionally funny, but at the heart of the book there's a real engagement with fear, time, and loss. There were a couple of moments towards the end where I thought the structure was weaker, but that's just a quibble - on the whole I thought this was wonderful: an intelligent, elegant, and - in spite of the pervading sense of graveyard cold - warm book. And Chris Riddell's illustrations are beautiful - ethereal-looking line drawings that are witty and unsettling. I haven't seen the other edition but I can't imagine Riddell's drawings being bettered.
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VINE VOICEon 5 February 2012
A killer is loose he has claimed three victims from one family but one escapes. He lives to fight another day. But there is something unique about this escapee.

He is a baby.

He does not know his name.

He finds shelter in a graveyard.

The ghosts who live in the graveyard, claim him and name him as No'bod'y.

Bod becomes one of them whilst still alive. He has a guardian, Silas and parents Mr and Mrs Owens, teachers throughout the cemetery who educate him on all scholarly and ghostly matters.

But the man who killed his REAL family still needs to complete his mission and that is to kill the one who got away. Can Bod survive to live another day or will the ghostly world in which he inhabits finally shut him out forever?

This fantasy book is predominantly aimed at children aged 9 - 12 and I think perhaps less advanced readers would struggle with it, vocabulary wise but would certainly enjoy the pace of the story. There are parts of the book where the plot was certainly lost on me and it had very resonant elements of the Harry Potter series, which could be a double edged sword. Youngsters might find it good to progress to such a fantasy book as this whilst others might find it is a disappoint without much reasoned explanation for why Bod's family are killed.

The latter being what I found as I thought at one point I had missed a huge chunk of the book out as to why Bod needed to be killed. However I think perhaps with adult eyes we look for more reasoned explanations whilst as children we would simply go with the flow.

Each chapter is a story within itself and they are all page turners and it was an enjoyable read with the right amount of fantasy, reality and enough creepiness without feeling too scared to read on. A book for all to enjoy.
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on 19 June 2009
As someone new to Neil Gaiman, I wasn't sure what to expect - but it was very pleasant surprise. Both touching and really quite dark and sinister at times, I particularly liked the relationship between Silas and Bod. The book successfully portrayed a cemetery as a safe and welcoming place and you were never quite sure what was going to happen next. Highly recommended.
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When a man called Jack enters a house and murders a husband and wife and their daughter there is only one child left to get.
However by the time the man reaches the infant's room, he has gone.

He toddles off down the road and enters the local Graveyard where it is decided by the Lady on the Grey Horse, that he can stay and be looked after by Mistress Owens and her Husband until he grows up. The couple name him Nobody but he soon becomes known to all in the graveyard as 'Bod'. He has a Guardian called Silas who I think is a ???????, There are also plenty of erudite dead who impart their knowledge to Bod as he grows up

The graveyard isn't entirely without it's problems though...........there are some very nasty entities who occasionally float around.

So, Bod grows up and Silas tells him he can now leave the graveyard to avenge his parents and sister.

Extremely readable so much so that I read it in one sitting.
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on 21 January 2013
I rather didn't want this book to end, I absolutely loved it. The characters are slick and it's just a very cool read. This was the second book I read of Gaiman's after Coraline and Other Stories and the man is amazing at what he does. It's the right amount of not-scary yet eerie to be suitable for children whilst keeping adult readers captive (at least it did me!).
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This book is a terrific read for both young and old. The story is engaging and aptly dark as per the standard Gaiman novel but the concepts and ideas are suitable for the younger reader without being willowy or too protective. This is a book I am sure I will return to again and again when I feel like a little bit of easy reading fantasy.
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on 19 June 2009
Deservedly this book won the Newbery Medal. It is a remarkably unsentimental, wonderful,gently humorous tale of Nobody. The Baby who crawled into and was brought up in The Graveyard. To tell more of the story than that would spoil the magical effect of Gaiman's skill in leading you down a path which has you believing seven impossible things before elevenses.

To say I was entranced by this book is to put it in banal terms. I have now told at least forty people that until they read Gaiman's latest work, they will not realise that English writing is not only well, not only thriving, but reaching heights that the most optimistic would hardly credit.

This is story telling at it's highest level. I suggested to one of my grandsons (aged 11) that he might like to read this book. Unlike me he is not a great reader though he usually has a book by his bed. He shrugged but took it. Two days later he came to me with a huge grin on his face. "It's cool, Dadoo." he said " It's just...magic"

I don't think I can improve on that.
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