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The Graveyard Book

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The Graveyard Book  

First edition cover
AuthorNeil Gaiman
IllustratorDave McKean
CountryUnited States
PublisherHarper Collins (US)
Bloomsbury (UK)
Publication dateSeptember 30, 2008
Media typePrint, e-book, audiobook
OCLC Number179806700
LC ClassificationPZ7.G1273 Gr 2008

The Graveyard Book is a children's fantasy novel by British-born author Neil Gaiman. The story is about a boy named Nobody Owens who, after his family is killed by a mysterious man, is subsequently adopted and raised by the occupants of an old graveyard. Gaiman's first full-length children's novel since the bestselling and widely acclaimed Coraline, The Graveyard Book won the 2009 Hugo[1] and Newbery Awards, as well as a Locus Award for best YA novel. It was also shortlisted for the World Fantasy[1] and Locus[1] Awards for Best Science Fiction Novel.



Gaiman first had the idea for the story in 1985 after seeing his then two year-old son Mike "pedaling his tricycle around a graveyard"[2] their family lived across from. Recalling how at home his son looked there, Gaiman thought he "could write something a lot like The Jungle Book and set it in a graveyard."[3]

Each chapter takes the form of a short story, and most are set a year or two apart as the protagonist grows up. Some of the chapters have direct analogies to Rudyard Kipling's 1894 work (from which The Graveyard Book also takes its title[4]); for example, the chapter "The Hounds of God" parallels the story Kaa's Hunting.[5]

Publication history

One chapter of The Graveyard Book was previously published as a short story in the Gaiman anthology M is for Magic and won the 2008 Locus Award for Best Novelette.[6] The book was released on September 30, 2008 in the United States by HarperCollins[7] and on October 31, 2008, in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury Publishing.[8] The cover and interior illustrations of the US-edition were created by longtime Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean; he also illustrated the UK edition intended for the adult market. The British edition intended for children was illustrated by Chris Riddell.

A limited US-edition of The Graveyard Book, with a different cover and interior illustrations by McKean, was produced by Subterranean Press. There is also an audiobook edition read by Neil Gaiman, including a version of Saint-Saëns' "Danse Macabre" played by Béla Fleck.[9]

Main characters

  • Nobody Owens: the boy protagonist who is nicknamed "Bod". His parents and sister were murdered when he was a toddler, and he became a resident of the graveyard. He is taught certain ghostly abilities, such as Haunting, Dream-walking, and Fading from mortal sight.
  • Silas: Bod's guardian until the boy reaches maturity. Teacher, counselor, and vigilant champion, Silas is not alive, but he is not dead. Unlike the ghosts, he may move among the living in order to acquire food, medicine, and other necessities for the boy. Silas is a member of the Honour Guard and it is hinted at that he is a vampire, but never out-right stated in the book. Gaiman has confirmed Silas as a vampire in interviews.[10]
  • Miss Lupescu: a teacher. Foreign and strange, and considered by Bod to be an unpalatable cook, Miss Lupescu serves as substitute guardian and general tutor when Silas is called away. She may seem cold and somewhat uncaring, but she is a formidable woman who has vowed to watch over Nobody, whether he wants her to or not. She is revealed to be a "Hound of God", or werewolf, and a member of the Honour Guard. "Lupescu" is a Romanian name ("lup" = wolf, "escu" = common Romanian last name suffix). Other hint concerning her origins is given when she affectionately calls "Nobody" using the Romanian word "Nimeni" (meaning of course, "nobody").
  • Liza Hempstock: the ghost of a witch. Buried in the potter's field outside the confines of the blessed graveyard property, she wishes for a headstone to mark her resting place. One part trickster and one part helping hand, Liza is fickle but mostly fair, and honestly fond of the living boy from the next patch over.
  • Scarlett Amber Perkins: a living girl. At the age of five, Scarlett befriends Bod (who her parents believe to be an imaginary friend) while playing in the cemetery. Later, at the age of fifteen, Scarlett and Bod reunite when she returns to the graveyard and encounters Jack Frost.
  • The Man Jack: the killer who murdered Bod's parents. In the second half of the book, he is referred to as Jack and Mr. Frost. A mysterious figure throughout most of the text, he murdered Bod's family and seeks to kill the boy because of a self-fulfilling prophecy. He poses as a mild-mannered and gentle man to Scarlett and her mother when they return nine years later. He is taken away in the end of the book by the Sleer, whom he encounters with Bod in the Mausoleum in the Hill.
  • Mr & Mrs. Owens: a ghost couple who adopts Bod as a baby. Unable to have children while living, they care deeply for the boy and call him "son".
  • Jacks of All Trades: a group of men collectively named Jack, who trace their roots to Egyptian times. They are responsible for the murder of Bod's family, and therefore seek to kill the boy because his survival into adulthood would mean the end of their order. At the book's conclusion, those that are not taken out by the Honour Guard are individually and sequentially dispatched by Bod into a 20 foot grave, a ghoul-gate, and the Sleer's den.
  • The Ghouls: a group of loathsome supernatural creatures that roam around the world making mischief. They are very deceitful, and they are named after their first meal as a ghoul, such as The Duke of Westminster, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Lord High Mayor of London, and The 33rd President of the United States. They capture Bod to take him to the evil ghoul city of Ghûlheim. The ghouls access their infernal realm through ghoul-gates, portals disguised as ugly, untended graves; each graveyard usually has one.
  • The Sleer: an ancient servant who resides deep in the barrows. It guards the treasure of his Master, but is unsure if he will return.

Critical reception

On January 26, 2009, the American Library Association named The Graveyard Book as the recipient of the 2009 Newbery Medal.[11] Gaiman's work was cited by the ALA for its "delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing", noting its "magical, haunting prose".[3] The book won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novel.[12][13]


Film adaptation

Irish Academy Award-winning filmmaker Neil Jordan had signed on to write and direct the film adaptation. The film is currently being set up.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "2009 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=2009. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  2. "Neil Gaiman Interview: The Graveyard Book". Scottish Book Trust. http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/podcasts/audio/neil-gaiman-the-graveyard-book. Retrieved February 23, 2009. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Motoko, Rich (January 26, 2009). "‘The Graveyard Book’ Wins Newbery Medal". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/books/27newb.html?em. Retrieved February 23, 2009. 
  4. Grossman, Lev (July 26, 2007). "Geek God". Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1647474,00.html. Retrieved February 23, 2009. 
  5. Gaiman's Graveyard Book at Rest for Now
  6. "2008 Locus Awards Winners". Locus Online News. http://www.locusmag.com/2008/Locus_Awards_Winners.html. Retrieved February 23, 2009. 
  7. "The view from Chapter 8". Neil Gaiman's Official Blog. http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/02/view-from-chapter-8.html. Retrieved February 23, 2009. 
  8. www.lovereading.co.uk link to children's edition
  9. Neil Gaiman Pre-Orders on Amazon
  10. "Interview: Neil Gaiman". www.scifinow.co.uk. http://www.scifinow.co.uk/interviews/interview-neil-gaiman/. Retrieved January 7, 2010. 
  11. "2009 ALSC Award Winners". American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/2009medawardwin.cfm. Retrieved February 23, 2009. 
  12. "2009 Hugo Award Winners". World Science Fiction Society. http://www.thehugoawards.org/2009/08/2009-hugo-award-winners/. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  13. "Neil Gaiman gewinnt den Hugo Award" (in German). Der Standard. August 14, 2009. http://derstandard.at/fs/1250003492265/Preise-Neil-Gaiman-gewinnt-den-Hugo-Award. Retrieved September 9, 2009. 
  14. http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2010/01/still-alive.html

External links


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