Full review here:
The book in one sentence: Escaping the blade of an assassin, a baby boy is saved by and taken care of by a graveyard, a paradoxical tale of the dead teaching the living how to live.
My thoughts: I've already raved that The Graveyard Book is among my top children's books for 2009. I told my daughter to read it, and pretty sure she loved it as much as I did!
The storyline was the best thing about it -- unpredictable -- which is why I enjoyed it so much despite already knowing the gist. A baby escapes an assassin's blade by wandering into, of all places, a graveyard. Fortunately, there were kindhearted ghosts (and non-ghosts) who decided that "The dead should have charity," took him in and raised him. They not only took care of the normal human needs of food, clothing, shelter, they went one step further by giving him the "freedom of the graveyard" teaching Bod how to act like a ghost.
What I found interesting is how the fantastical graveyard world is interwoven so well with reality that I didn't really question just how fantastically impossible all this is.
The characters definitely made this book. I fell in love with the graveyard characters: Bod our hero; the very caring Owens couple; sub teacher Miss Lupescu; the witch Liza Hempstock of Potter's Field; the ghouls who seemed to be nice but turned out to be Bod's enemy ... and our favourite guardian, Silas, ah Silas. The living, on the other hand, were not as likable, with the exception of Scarlett Amber Perkins, Bod's playmate who makes an appearance twice in the book. The villain Jack scared the *hit out of my daughter.
There was also some mystery about the characters to actually have long discussions with my 11-year- old. What exactly is Silas? We've speculated that he is vampire or a zombie because of the little clues scattered throughout the book. Miss Lupescu - that's easier because she claims what she is somewhere towards the end but you'll be second-guessing yourself in the beginning. And the Sleer? An ancient servant whose Master is unknown. Who is the Master and what exactly was the treasure? And we wondered why on earth The Jack of All Trades so wanted Bod and his family dead?
There was also a lot of sub-stories that it's difficult to get bored at any point: Bod's friendship with the witch Liza Hempstock and her desire to have her own gravestone; the friendship started and re-found with Scarlett Amber Perkins; and the Danse Macabre is a gem of a chapter which has evidence in many paintings and even music.
On another note, the illustrations were really great, though I know I would've enjoyed the book even without them. Though they really are more for oldies rather than a younger audience.
After all the Bod goes through with the graveyard characters, I still worry about Bod leaving the graveyard because this is all the family he ever knew. How can Bod possibly rip himself out of this loving environment? But the optimism that Gaiman puts into Bod stepping into the world leaves you to wish him the best.
My 11-year-old's thoughts: I liked the scariness of the book - I got really scared with The Man Jack because of how he killed Bod's family and was still looking for Bod. I really liked Silas and Miss Lupescu because of how well they took care of Bod. The Danse Macabre because the idea of the living dancing with the dead is really cool.
I decided to read this because: I was on a Neil Gaiman read-fest and this book won the Newbery for 2009.
I'd recommend it to: Children maybe 10 and above as it can get a little scary and you may have problems convincing them that Jack is not out there to get them too; Neil Gaiman fans - if you liked Coraline, am pretty sure you'll like this one.
First line: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
Last line: But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his eyes and his heart wide open.
Verdict: A must read for young and not-so-young. Never read Gaiman? Read this!