I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . .
Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages. (source)
This interesting book was assigned to me for my Resources for Children class that I'm taking this semester, and it filled the role of a few "firsts" for me. While it's not the first Neil Gaiman book that I've read, it is the first that I've read since reading Coraline when I was in middle school, which meant that I had mostly forgotten his writing style and it was almost like reading one of his works for the first time. More importantly, my professor required that we read the audiobook version of the book, which made this my first audiobook experience.
The story itself is morbidly sweet. A toddler's family is killed by a stranger one night and he is the only one who escapes. He makes his way down to a nearby cemetery, where a couple of ghosts adopt him. This is facilitated by his "guardian," Silas who is sort of "undead," so to speak, and is thus able to leave the graveyard to provide the boy with certain necessary survival items such as food and clothes. The boy comes to be known as Nobody Owens, and goes by "Bod" for short. Bod's place in the world is very unique - he is alive, but, seeing as he's being raised by ghosts, he feels much more at place with the dead, which is very confusing for him. His misadventures were interesting to learn about, though some things didn't make much sense to me. For example, Bod takes on certain ghost-like qualities by virtue of living in the graveyard. The most prominent of these is the ability to fade - Bod can make himself invisible. I don't believe that it was ever explained how exactly Bod, a living, breathing, fully alive human boy, gained this ability and I definitely think that it should have been.
This brings me to my next point, about the audiobook format. There were some things that I very much liked about the audiobook. This one is actually narrated by Neil Gaiman himself, which was super cool because who better to tell a story than the man who wrote it? So that was just a really neat experience. I also liked that this allowed me to listen to the story as I drove to and from school/work/my internship. I do a lot of driving these days and often spend 20+ minutes in the car for each trip, so I was able to do a lot of "reading" this way - so much so that I am thinking about borrowing more audiobooks from the library as a partial solution to my new inability to read more than a few books a month due to my busy schedule. However, I process information MUCH better when I'm reading it rather than listening to it. This is at least partially due to my auditory processing disability - the gist of it is that I'm able to hear perfectly well, but, while most people have billions of cells connecting their ear drum to their brain, I only have millions, which means that my brain often doesn't process sounds correctly, and when it does, it sometimes takes me a bit longer to understand what has been said. It's not much of a delay, but it's enough to make things difficult. So, the audiobook format is a bit challenging for me. Having background noise of any kind makes things even more muddled, and obviously there's quite a bit of it when driving. Add to this the fact that I live in Pittsburgh, which is one of the most confusing cities to drive in especially when you're new to the area (as I am), which causes me to rely on the GPS fairly frequently, which obviously conflicts with trying to listen to the audiobook. Long story short -- because this book was in audiobook format I know that I missed information that I never would have missed if I had been reading this book in a traditional format. The audiobook is convenient in some ways, but I feel that, for me, it definitely detracted from my reading experience as a whole. So I would like to re-read this book as a printed book at some point and I'm definitely on the fence about the whole audiobook thing.
One last comment that I'd like to make is that I'm really not sure who this book's target audience would be. As I was listening to it, I definitely felt that, based on Bod's age for the majority of the story and based on the phrasing/word choice, the book is probably meant for 3rd-5th graders. However, it has a dark side (obviously - it's about a boy whose family was murdered who now lives in a graveyard) and there were certain topics that are discussed that I think might be a bit advanced for kids that young, especially more on the third grade side of the spectrum, such as suicide and witch-burning. I think these topics are better suited for a more mature reader. While a fifth grader or middle schooler might be able to handle it, I think it would be questionable to put this in an elementary school library where, say, a 2nd grader might read it. I think I would definitely recommend that younger readers read this with a parent, who might be able to guide them through the darker parts. Parents and educators - have you encountered this book before? What are your thoughts on this topic?
Overall, this story was very interesting and I'd definitely like to re-read it when I have more time, because I think I missed a lot due to it being in audiobook format. If you like macabre stories, I think you'd definitely like this.