The Right to Write

Posts Tagged ‘the graveyard book

Neil Gaiman opens up this unique book with darkness – a hand with a knife – and a baby.

The baby is a curious boy and while the mysterious “the-man-Jack” murders the baby’s family, the boy escapes from his crib and toddles out of the house unbeknownst to the-man-Jack, thus saving his life.

He wanders into a graveyard where two ghosts, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, find him. After much contemplation, the residents of the graveyard decide to keep him and to give him the freedom of the graveyard. Bod is, however, not allowed outside the graveyard in case he is murdered by the people who killed his parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Owens will be his father and mother, and Silas, who is the keeper of the graveyard and the only one who can wander beyond the gates of the graveyards, will be the boy’s guardian.

After further contemplation, the residents of the graveyard decide on a name. Thus, Nobody “Bod” Owens is christened. He’s normal boy…well, except for the fact that he lives in a graveyard and all his friends are ghosts.

But all that changes when Bod is about five. He meets a girl named Scarlett Amber Perkins. When Bod and Scarlett visit a barrow – a place where people keep their treasure – they meet the Sleer, a creature whose master went away and promised to return but never did. Three weeks later, Scarlett’s father gets a job in Scotland and she is forced to move.

In what seems like a twist to the story, Bod goes to a normal school. Silas lets Bod go to school on one condition: he is not to be noticed. Living up to his name, he’s a Nobody there; even the teachers have no idea who he is.

In time, the good in him comes out the way it usually does in most fictional and TV heroes. He tries to stop some school bullies by teaching them a lesson, using skills that he learned from the ghosts. It works but people start paying attention to him.

After nearly being arrested for scaring the bullies, Bod stops going to school and life returns to “normal”. However, something has changed. Bod has tasted the outside world and he gets more adventurous.

There are two illustrations to choose from, this is the less scary one.

There are two illustrations to choose from, this is the less scary one.

He visits a part of the graveyard that has been forbidden to him ever since he could remember. There he meets a witch by the name of Liza Hempstock. He befriends her, and makes it his mission to get her a headstone, as witches didn’t get headstones in the olden days. It just wasn’t done.

He gets her the headstone, and Liza develops something of a crush on him, despite him being only about 12. In the process of getting the headstone, he makes his presence known to the Jack-of-all-Trades, a group of assassins whose best assassin is the-man-Jack.

While this book is certainly one of a kind, it has some amount of predictability. Scarlett comes back from Scotland with a Scottish accent that makes her feel very out of place. Heck, it makes me feel out of place for her, just thinking about it.

When Scarlett returns to the Old Town where Bod’s graveyard is, she meets the-man-Jack in said graveyard. She and her newly-divorced mother are charmed by “Mr. Jack Frost”, and when she meets up with Bod, she unknowingly leads Bod to “Mr. Frost” while trying to help him find his parents.

Thus, the chase ensues. The four remaining Jacks show up and they all go after Bod. He cleverly traps each of them to their deaths, until the final one, the-man-Jack is left. Bod finally frees himself from the Jack-of-all-Trades and gives the Sleer their new master – the-man-Jack. Scarlett is really shocked, and wants to never see Bod again. Sadly, they don’t reunite.

This book is certainly a refreshing one to read. It’s well written, the plot is well thought out and it’s realistic. It’s a children’s book in so far as there are no swear words in it. But when reading this book (and possibly losing a night of sleep over it), you don’t feel like it’s a children’s book at all, as there are so many layers to it. It’s certainly a book you won’t regret reading – or losing a night’s sleep over.

May 2020


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