Neil Gaiman is an excellent author. Each of his words seems to be so perfectly placed that they exactly convey their intended message and nothing more. I recently saw the quote, “Focus on the essence, not the filler” and, it reminded me of how Neil Gaiman writes. It has taken me a while to write a review for his latest book, The Graveyard Book, because while I recognize his exceptional artistic mastery, his dark genre is not generally my cup of tea.
For example, the opening scene of the book is the ruthless murder of a small boy’s entire family. The toddler escapes purely by accident. I know, I know as Lois Lowry so eloquently explains in The Willoughby’s, all of the great stories are about winsome orphans. The problem is that Neil Gaiman is such a good author that somehow it seems more traumatic than say Barbar, Cinderella, or even Lemony Snicket. However, while there are some suspenseful elements after the opening, there is nothing as graphic or scary as the first few pages.
This is yet another example of a story about a deserving orphan, this time he just happens to be raised by ghosts in a graveyard. And, although I am generally not drawn to anything goth or dark, it is hard to resist this exceptionally well told story. I have not given this to my daughter yet, but if I do, I hope she takes away the message that the dark and light parts of life do not always appear as you would expect them. And, in fact, it is sometimes quite the opposite. In this case, the ghosts in the graveyard are kind, nurturing and are raising a boy who will help keep the world safe. On the other hand, the true evil ones are the major donors at important charities. It is important for my daughters to learn that someone who has twelve eyebrow rings and wears only black can be just as good or better than the most clean cut looking person. In fact, I think I need to remember that sometimes too.
Children who consider themselves as outsiders will love this book. It has also just the enough of an edge to give it the power to capture what might be a reluctant reader. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to children younger than 4th grade who have well developed imaginations. When your child is old enough, this book ironically does convey a message of love and hope that this ‘clean cut’ mom is a total sucker for.