The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
The Graveyard Book  
TheGraveyardBook Hardcover.jpg
First edition cover
Author(s) Neil Gaiman
Illustrator Dave McKean
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Fantasy
Publisher Harper Collins (US)
Bloomsbury (UK)
Publication date 30 September 2008
Media type Print, e-book, audiobook
Pages 320
ISBN 0060530928
OCLC Number 179806700
LC Classification PZ7.G1273 Gr 2008

The Graveyard Book is a children's fantasy novel by English author Neil Gaiman. The story is about a boy named Nobody Owens, who after his family is murdered is adopted and raised by the occupants of a graveyard. Gaiman's first full-length children's novel since the bestselling and acclaimed Coraline, The Graveyard Book won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novel, Newbery Medal, and Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book, as well as the 2010 Carnegie Medal. It is the first novel to win both the Carnegie and Newbery medals and was also shortlisted for numerous others.


Concept and development

Gaiman had the idea for the story in 1985, after seeing his then two-year-old son Mike "pedaling his tricycle around a graveyard"[1] their family lived across from, in the English town of East Grinstead, West Sussex. 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."[2] When he sat down to write, however, Gaiman decided he was "not yet a good enough writer" and came to the same conclusion as he revisited it every few years.[3]

Each of the eight chapters is a short story, each set two years apart as the protagonist grows up.[3] Some chapters have analogies to Rudyard Kipling's 1894 work (from which The Graveyard Book takes its title[4]); for example, the chapter "The Hounds of God" parallels the story "Kaa's Hunting".[citation needed]


The story begins as Jack (usually referred to in the novel as 'the man Jack') has murdered all the members of a family except for the toddler upstairs. Unknown to him, the toddler has climbed out of his crib to explore. The toddler crawls out of the house and up a hill to a graveyard where the ghosts find him. They discuss whether to keep him until the Lady on the Grey (implied to be Death) appears and suggests that the baby should be kept ("The dead must have charity"). The ghosts accept and Mrs. Owens (the ghost who first discovered the baby) and her husband, Mr. Owens, become the foster parents. The baby is named Nobody Owens (as Mrs. Owens declares "He looks like nobody except himself") and is granted the Freedom of the Graveyard. The caretaker Silas (strongly implied to be a vampire) accepts the duty of providing for Nobody. The man Jack is persuaded that the toddler has crawled down the hill, and he eventually loses the trail.

The bulk of the book is about Nobody's (often called Bod) adventures in and out of the graveyard as he grows up. As a boy, he befriends a girl called Scarlett Perkins and she is eventually convinced by her mother that he is her imaginary friend. It is with her that Bod discovers a creature called the Sleer, who has been waiting for thousands of years for his "Master" to come and reclaim him. Scarlett's parents believe she has gone missing during this adventure, and when she returns consequently decide to move the family to Scotland. He is once captured by the Ghouls and then rescued by his tutor Miss Lupescu, discovering she is a Hound of God, i.e. a werewolf. Bod befriends Elizabeth Hempstock the witch and, through a short adventure that includes being kidnapped by a greedy pawnshop owner, finds a gravestone for her. Once, he tries to attend regular primary school with other human children but it ends in a disaster as two bullies make it impossible for him to maintain a low profile. Throughout his adventures Bod learns supernatural abilities such as Fading, Haunting, and Dream Walking, taught by his loving graveyard parents, his ghost teacher Mr Pennyworth, and Silas.

Years pass by, and it is revealed that Jack has still been searching for the toddler that he had failed to kill. He must complete his assignment or his secret society, the Jacks of All Trades, will be destroyed by the surviving boy.

On Bod's 14th year at the graveyard, Silas and Miss Lupescu both leave to attend some business. Meanwhile, Scarlett and her mother come back to the town as her parents have divorced and she and Bod reunite. Scarlett has also made friends with a historian called Mr Frost who is living in a house not too far from the graveyard. Researching the murder of Bod's family, Scarlett learns that the historian lives in the house that Bod once lived in. Bod visits the house, in an effort to learn more about his family. When showing Bod the room he lived in as a baby, Mr Frost reveals that he actually is the man Jack; Jack Frost is his full, true name.

Bod is attacked by the man Jack and four other members of the Order. Bod and Scarlett escape to the graveyard where Bod is able to defeat each Jack separately, except for Jack Frost. Jack Frost takes Scarlett captive in the chamber of the Sleer but is then tricked by Bod into saying "Yes, I am your master" to the Sleer. The Sleer engulfs Jack Frost in an "embrace" and they disappear into the wall. Silas returns and it is revealed that he, Miss Lupescu and two other supernatural beings (the ifrit Haroun and the winged mummy Kandar) who comprise the Honour Guard were fighting against the rest of the Jacks of All Trades, thus destroying the secret society completely. Though they succeeded in destroying the society, Miss Lupescu was killed in battle, to Silas and Bod's great sorrow.

Scarlett is shocked and appalled by the events of the night and Bod's questionable actions in the course of killing Jack Frost. Silas suggests the best course is to remove most of her memories of Bod and what happened that night. Bod disagrees with Silas, but Scarlett ends up with her memories taken anyway. Silas uses his power of suggestion to convince Scarlett and her mother to return to Glasgow.

In the final chapter of the book, a now-grown Bod is losing the Freedom of the Graveyard and even his ability to see ghosts. At the end of the book, Silas gives Bod a passport with the name "Nobody Owens" and Bod leaves the graveyard to embark on a new life.

Publication history

One chapter of The Graveyard Book was published as a short story in the Gaiman anthology M is for Magic and won the 2008 Locus Award for Best Novelette.[5] The book was released on 30 September 2008 in the United States by HarperCollins[6] and on 31 October 2008 in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury Publishing.[7] The cover and interior illustrations of the US-edition were created by longtime Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean; he illustrated the UK edition for the adult market. The British edition 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 an audiobook edition read by Gaiman, including a version of Saint-Saëns' "Danse Macabre" played by Béla Fleck.[8]

Critical reception

The Graveyard Book was cited by the American Library Association for its "delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing", noting its "magical, haunting prose".[2] The New York Times's Monica Edinger was very positive about the book, concluding, "In this novel of wonder, Neil Gaiman follows in the footsteps of long-ago storytellers, weaving a tale of unforgettable ­enchantment".[9] Kirkus Reviews awarded it a starred review, claiming that, "this needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child".[10] Author Patrick Ness wrote, "what's lost in forward momentum is more than made up for by the outrageous riches of Gaiman's imagination" and praised the villains.[11] The Independent praised the novel's different tones.[12]


Award Year Result
Newbery Medal 2009 Won[13]
Hugo Award for Best Novel 2009 Won[14]
Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel 2009 Won[15]
Carnegie Medal 2010 Won[16]
British Fantasy Award for Best Novel 2009 Nominated[17]
World Fantasy Award for Best Novel 2009 Nominated[18]

Film adaptation

Irish Academy Award-winning filmmaker Neil Jordan signed on to write and direct a film adaptation, which as of January 2010 is in pre-production.[19]


  1. ^ "Neil Gaiman Interview: The Graveyard Book". Scottish Book Trust. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Motoko, Rich (26 January 2009). "'The Graveyard Book' Wins Newbery Medal". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Kerr, Euan (18 October 2008). "Neild Gaiman's Ghostly Baby-Sitters Club". NPR. Retrieved 8 June 2011. 
  4. ^ Grossman, Lev (July 26, 2007). "Geek God". Time Magazine.,9171,1647474,00.html. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
  5. ^ "2008 Locus Awards Winners". Locus Online News. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
  6. ^ "The view from Chapter 8". Neil Gaiman's Official Blog. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
  7. ^ link to children's edition
  8. ^ Neil Gaiman Pre-Orders on Amazon
  9. ^ Edinger, Monica (13 February 2009). "Raised by Ghosts". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "The Graveyard Book". Kirkus Reviews. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  11. ^ Ness, Patrick (25 October 2008). "Ghost Stories". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  12. ^ Martin, Tim (2 November 2008). "The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman". The Independent. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  13. ^ "2009 ALSC Award Winners". American Library Association. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
  14. ^ "2009 Hugo Award Winners". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  15. ^ Doctorow, Cory (28 June 2009). "2009 Locus Award winners". Boing Boing. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  16. ^ Flood, Alison (24 June 2010). "Neil Gaiman wins Carnegie Medal". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  17. ^ "British Fantasy Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2011-11-4. 
  18. ^ "World Fantasy Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2011-11-4. 
  19. ^ Gaiman, Neil (31 January 2010). "Still Alive". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 

External links

Preceded by
Bog Child
Carnegie Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Monsters of Men
Preceded by
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
When You Reach Me

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