Read for the 2010 YA and RIP V Reading Challenges.
I love Neil Gaiman. He’s probably the only person in the universe that can start a story off with a toddler managing to escape the murder of the rest of his family by wandering into a graveyard, and make it into a more or less heart-warming story of family, and growing up.
The toddler is christened Nobody Owens, Owens in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Owens, denizens of the graveyard who have been dead several centuries, who always wanted a child. Of course, they can’t leave the graveyard, so only agreement to take on parenting young Bod when Silas, who is to some degree (which degree is never named, but he’s probably a vampire) undead. Silas can leave the graveyard and fetch food and other necessaries for Bod, and so he’s given the liberty of the graveyard, and brought up there as one of the community.
The book is more or less a collection of short stories, with Bod aging in fits and spurts between chapters. You get to follow his entire life, as he learns more about the residents of the graveyard, and gradually starts to leave them behind more and more. The culmination of the story is when he finally learns who it was that kills his family, and is able to face that enemy.
This is a lovely book – I can totally see why it won a Newbery Award. It’s never particularly scary, and paints such a lovely picture of the afterlife. I’m lucky enough to live near some of the oldest cemeteries in the U.S., but even we can only claim people back to the 1600s. This cemetery, in England, has denizens back to before the Romans, and it’s such fun to read their stories as Bod meets them. I didn’t need confirmation that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, but it’s always nice when his books continually provide it.