by Neil Gaiman
Reviewed by Helen Sanders
Written in a dark and straightforward style, The Graveyard Book is the story of a very small child who wanders, after his family is murdered by The Man Jack, into a graveyard. There, the denizens of the crypts and tombs decide to take him in after the child’s mother, recently dead herself, makes an appeal to a kindly ghost to watch over her child. And so the child is named Nobody Owens, and is cared for and looked after by the graveyard inhabitants.
The ghosts there decide to protect Nobody, and well they should, as Jack, who is persistent in his hunt of the last family member left to be murdered, lurks always around the boundary of the graveyard. Nobody grows up surrounded by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, who swore to protect him and who take him into their daffodil covered tomb. Silas, neither living nor dead, becomes his guardian, and brings food and medicine to Nobody, as the only entity who can walk among the living, and Nobody’s teacher, Miss Lupescu, who is odd and dour, and cannot cook at all. She is formidable in her responsibility of caring for Nobody when Silas must leave on his secret journeys. Nobody grows up and figures out how to get into a field inhabited by Ghouls, very powerful ghosts with long and pretentious pedigrees, and he makes friends with a witch and a living girl, his age, named Scarlet. Her mother thinks of Nobody as her daughter’s imaginary friend, but as time passes, Scarlet’s stories become harder and harder to explain away.
Throughout the book, Jack haunts Nobody, biding his time for the right moment, and Nobody grows up with the knowledge that, if he leaves the graveyard, and its protection, Jack will find him and finish him. The book is eerily engrossing and like Stephen King, Gaiman draws the reader in with simple images and simple words, and weaves a tale, like a spider, which has one quickly ensnared.