I’d heard a lot about The Graveyard Book even before it won the Newbery since it’s by Neil Gaiman, a man who inspires a following like few others.
And then, when it did win, it was heralded as the redeeming book for the Newbery award; it was considered proof that sometimes the Newbery committee doesn’t pick obscure, heavy books, but instead ones that appeal to actual real children and that even boys would like (I know. . .a book boys will like. Who knew such a thing even existed?).
Of course, it still has dead parents in it, so it’s not like it’s strayed ALL that far from one of the time-and-Newbery-honored themes.
Anyway, it obviously meant I had high hopes for this book, expecting it to be fun reading. And when the book started out with a murderer named Jack creeping through a dark house, having murdered the parents and a sister and now ready to off the little baby boy, I assumed I was right.
But then it kind of slowed down for me. I kept thinking, “Hmm, what a very odd choice.”
I continued to hear comparisons to the Jungle Book – a series of semi-related stories, rather than one long storyline – and this didn’t thrill me at all. I don’t really like that kind of thing – give me a novel over a short story every single day of the week (actually every single day of my life).
Fortunately, though, it really picked up in the second half and wow, by the end, I just wanted to weep a little, it was so lovely and poignant and also sweet and funny. The story comes together more tightly and cleverly than I’d expected, and I absolutely fell in love with Bod, the escaped baby boy who grows up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts and the mysterious non-ghost/non-human Silas.
It really was an excellent Newbery choice – you can’t ask for much more in a book than this one offers.
Neil Gaiman, you came through.