The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

When I began reading The Graveyard Book I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t heard of it before, or had any prior information as to what type of novel it was. So when the first scene is that of the murder, I was in shock. I found it hard to get into initially, because I couldn’t follow the logic. It truly is easier to enter into fantasy scenarios with the imagination of a child. I believe adulthood leaves us a bit jaded, and so after entering into a suspension of disbelief, I ended up really liking it. I do enjoy novels of the fantasy genre, and especially with a bit of mystery. I thought that this book would probably go over exceedingly well with my 7th graders since they all enjoy mystery stories.

The story is that of Bod (short for Nobody), who is the sole survivor of the opening murder scene. At the start of the novel he is a baby, and having escaped the killer, manages to be saved from certain death by entering into the close by graveyard, where its inhabitants are the ghosts of the people who were buried there. An older, ghost, couple essentially adopts Bod, and he grows up in this environment, receiving food, shelter and education from the ghosts of the graveyard. He is invisible to outsiders who are living, but can be seen by other children. When a young girl comes to the graveyard with her mother, the two develop a friendship that ends up being long-lasting. The conflict of the story is that the killer will not stop searching for him, with the intention to kill him. Bod’s naïve nature, and lack of education essentially prevents him from understanding how he is being protected by this evil that is searching for him, and also gets him into trouble when he follows the ghouls to the depths down below. And true I really liked how the author never gave too much away but left little hints to the reader. Like how we never are told what Silas is. Which in the beginning puzzled me because he was said to not be alive or dead. So naturally I connected the dots and said that he must be some sort of undead or vampire. Even though he says he is a reformed evil creature, who has the ability to leave and return the graveyard, something that the spirits cannot do. Bod, as a protagonist, is clearly how the students would connect to the story. Although he is being raised under strange circumstances, he is still going through things that they have experienced as well. It is a true coming of age story too; that I think is what humanizes the mystical premise.

Due to the fantastical nature of the novel, I think that a creative writing assignment would be an excellent way to end a Unit on the book. I would provide the student’s with a list of characters from the story, all of which would be minor characters that live in the graveyard, and have them write their story. What happened to them, how did they die, why did they end up there? I would also have a visual component to the assignment and ask the students to create drawings or pictures of their characters, trying to use details from the story. I think that the writing activity will be one they enjoy to write.

AH

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One thought on “The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

  1. The Graveyard Book is very well written book. The language in the opening chapter reeled me in. It’s a horrifying beginning yet the suspense is great. Of course if the baby got killed then there wouldn’t be much of a story.
    I’ve been on a newspaper kick of late, thinking of writing exercises that deal with journalism and so there are a number of opportunities to write “news articles” from this book. Certainly the opening chapter is built for reporting on. But there are other ways to use journalism in this novel. One could easily conceive of a dead reporter in the graveyard who writes a story for the “Graveyard Current” or “The Graveyard Gazette,” and he could write a profile of Bod when he turns 14 say, interviewing many of the denizens of the graveyard. There could also be a news story about the Dance Macabre that would disappear the following day. And certainly the final story of Bod finally having his revenge on Jack.

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