The man Jack had always completed his assignments thoroughly and efficiently. His knife dispatched the man, the woman, and the little girl before even a scream could pass their lips. So it comes as a great surprise to him when he discovers that the toddler has somehow escaped into the night. The man Jack follows the little boy’s scent up the hill and into the graveyard, but there he loses the trail as a mysterious, black-velvet-clad man named Silas escorts him from the graveyard, persuading him that he never saw the child there in the first place. The inhabitants of the graveyard, the ghosts of all of those laid to rest within its gates over the centuries, offer the child their protection. The ghosts Master and Mistress Owens adopt the child, whom they name Nobody (Bod), and Silas, who is neither living nor dead and can therefore leave the graveyard to procure food for the child, agrees to be his guardian. Bod is given the freedom of the graveyard, seeing as the dead see, moving through walls, fading into shadow, and exploring worlds on the border between life and death. He grows up safe inside the graveyard, but outside its gates, the man Jack has not abandoned his search for child.
The Graveyard Book won the 2009 Newbery Medal, which is somewhat surprising given the book’s subject matter–the dark, fantastical world stands out from typical Newbery winners–but fully deserved. Gaiman builds a vivid world in the graveyard and explores themes of life, death, family and friendship, love and loyalty, identity, and morality. He weaves these themes into his brilliantly imagined storyline, which keeps readers engaged in characters and plot from beginning to end. Fair warning: you will reach a point in the story where you will become unable to put this book down. Plan your time accordingly.
I highly recommed this book for upper elementary, teen, and adult readers who can handle dark fantasy and murder mysteries. I also cannot recommend highly enough Neil Gaiman’s audio book performance of this book! It is one of my top two favorite audiobooks of all time–an absolutely stunning performance. It is great to listen to, whether you are experiencing the book for the first time or reading it again. You should definitely check the audio book out!