Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Graveyard Book

I love when I hear book references in the most unlikely places (like the bar from yesterday's post). Anyways, the other night I was watching a rerun of the Colbert Report (as if I could stay up late enough to watch the real show) and he did a segment, something about "Awards He Didn't Receive" for the week and mentioned the Newberry Medal. The Newberry honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. This year the award went to The Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman.

Immediately intrigued by the title I looked it up. Review by Hedi Broadhead on Amazon.com:

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman has created a charming allegory of childhood. Although the book opens with a scary scene--a family is stabbed to death by "a man named Jack" --the story quickly moves into more child-friendly storytelling. The sole survivor of the attack--an 18-month-old baby--escapes his crib and his house, and toddles to a nearby graveyard. Quickly recognizing that the baby is orphaned, the graveyard's ghostly residents adopt him, name him Nobody ("Bod"), and allow him to live in their tomb. Taking inspiration from Kipling's The Jungle Book, Gaiman describes how the toddler navigates among the headstones, asking a lot of questions and picking up the tricks of the living and the dead. In serial-like episodes, the story follows Bod's progress as he grows from baby to teen, learning life's lessons amid a cadre of the long-dead, ghouls, witches, intermittent human interlopers. A pallid, nocturnal guardian named Silas ensures that Bod receives food, books, and anything else he might need from the human world. Whenever the boy strays from his usual play among the headstones, he finds new dangers, learns his limitations and strengths, and acquires the skills he needs to survive within the confines of the graveyard and in wider world beyond.

This sounds like a definite must-read for me, as I'm really getting into the somewhat sci-fi fantasy novels as of late. And I can only imagine all the similarities between this and Harry Potter, even just based on this summary. Both are about the adventures of a boy who escaped certain death, though their families were killed. Both find a new home where they learn to grow up and face obstacles, one in a graveyard, one in a magical school.
What are some of your favorite children's books?

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