Monday, May 6, 2013

Listen Up: Middle School Monday Edition--The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book is in some ways marvelously familiar and in others something wonderfully new. Nobody Owens is an orphan, whose family was killed by an evil man. See what I mean about sounding familiar? But you can be sure that Nobody Owens will not be attending any illustrious boarding schools for magic. In fact, most of his learning takes place outside the classroom in the place he calls home--the graveyard.

Surrounded and raised by the ghosts of the dead, as well as Silas who is seemingly neither dead or alive but something quite other, Bod (short for Nobody) lives under the protection of the graveyard. This allots him certain powers but also keeps him far removed from the world of the living. The story begins with a baby alone, but soon Bod grows up, makes friends (sometimes with the dead and sometimes with the living), struggles between hiding from his enemies and seeking them out, all the while learning about the world (that which is seen and that which is unseen), and eventually facing it head on in all its goodness and evil. Bod’s adventures build one after another, each more dazzling than the last in its imagination and excitement.

What makes this a “Listen Up” post rather than just another ole book review, though, is the fact that these adventures are recounted by the author himself, Neil Gaiman, in the audiobook. As the author reads aloud this wonderfully familiar, wonderfully new tale, it feels as if we’re getting the truest, most authentic version of the story. From the creepiness of the man Jack, the goodness of Bod, the mysteriousness of Silas, the loving nature of Mrs. Owens, and even the earnestness of his friend Scarlet (plus her Scottish brogue), The Graveyard Book is a listening pleasure filled with Gaiman’s trademark imagination and wit... and his voice.

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