{Review/Giveaway} Celebrate Halloween with Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, along with two graphic novels!

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O P E N I N G   H O O K:

     THERE WAS A HAND IN the darkness, and it held a knife.

(Page 2-3,  US Commemorative Edition)

This review was first posted at A Backwards Story on October 30, 2014.

It takes a graveyard to raise a child.

A graveyard may not be the ideal place to raise a living, breathing child, but it's the only home that Nobody Owens has ever known. After his family is violently murdered, toddler Bod is lucky to escape to a nearby graveyard. The Owens ghosts take him in and give him the Freedom of the Graveyard, granting him asylum and safety. Bod is also taken under the wing of Silas, his new Guardian. Over the course of the novel, he grows from a babe to a young man, cared for by the ghosts around him. But only in the graveyard is Bod safe. In the real world, a killer named Jack is still hunting him, and will go to any means to find him...

There's been a lot going on recently when it comes to Neil Gaiman's Newbery Award novel THE GRAVEYARD BOOK:

1) In 2014, a Commemorative Edition of the novel was released to honor the fact that over one million copies of the title have sold.

2) THE GRAVEYARD BOOK was also adapted into a two-part graphic novel, helmed by P. Craig Russell. Both volumes are now available in print.

3) A movie has been in the works for a long time now, but has changed hands. In August 2014, Neil Gaiman confirmed on Twitter that Ron Howard will be directing the movie, which will be produced by Walt Disney Pictures. Nothing has been heard since; the film appears to be in limbo. Or maybe it's still stop-motion, which just takes a long time to develop!

October is the perfect time to sink into a creepy read. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK has a supernatural feel to it, and is definitely suited to being read around Halloween.  If you've never read the novel before (This was my first time!), I would highly recommend picking up the brand-new Commemorative Edition. It has a lot of great bonuses, such as Gaiman's Newbery Acceptance Speech, a look at the inspiration behind the idea and why it took so many years to bring to fruition, and images of original, hand-written pages of Gaiman's drafts.

I was taken back by just how dark and creepy some of the concepts in THE GRAVEYARD BOOK were, perhaps because the novel opens with a grisly triple murder. There's enough lightness and adventure mixed in with the macabre to create a solid balance, however, and the novel still feels appropriate for children. I love the way Gaiman tried to emulate one of his childhood favorites, THE JUNGLE BOOK by Rudyard Kipling, creating a series of short stories that chronicle Bod's adventures every two years as he slowly begins to grow up. The structure of the novel lends a whimsical feel to the story and makes the book feel like something that might sit beside other classics on a shelf. While there are many dark elements at play, nothing is darker than a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.

The graphic novels, on the other hand, I'd be more hesitant to hand to younger readers. It follows the novel of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK very faithfully...and that includes the violent triple-murder that opens the book. Being a children's graphic novel, I was surprised by just how gruesome that scene was illustrated. The rest of the graphic novel isn't nearly as violent, but that opening scene alone makes me want to not give it to a child who isn't mature enough to handle the violence. There's something much more visceral about seeing the story come to life. In my head, I saw these characters and came up with my own images of the way they interacted with the world around them. For example, I never picked up on the fact that Silas might be a vampire until the graphic novel. Visuals leave less to the imagination, but at the same time, they give you more certainty about the world if you're looking for finalized answers. And, of course, I really wanted to see a visual of the terrifying Sleer!

I really like the way P. Craig Russell worked with several different illustrators for each individual chapter. The illustration style changes a little bit each time, and it works, since every chapter takes place two years later. Russell himself was actually my favorite illustrator because I love the way he made Silas look more gentle. I noticed it right away in Chapter Two. Maybe I missed something (I'm sure I did, actually), because I never picked up on the fact that Silas was a vampire. He was always Bod's Guardian, able to come and go and travel. He was very caring and loved Bod. In the first chapter of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, Volume I, Silas has a very scary appearance and glowing eyes. Creepy! In the second chapter, illustrated by Russell, and in the final chapter of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, Volume II, Silas has a much softer face that feels much more relatable to his warm persona. I also loved seeing Scarlett in the flesh and celebrating the fact that here is one more diverse character to add to children's literature.

In retrospect, I would give the novel THE GRAVEYARD BOOK to a younger child than I would the graphic novels, though both mediums are well-suited for telling the story and bringing characters to life. It will be interesting to see how these characters will once more be given new life when the movie finally comes into existence!


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: --
Language: --
Violence: 10+ ( Death, murder )
Other: --

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

My favorite cover of all the editions of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK to have come out is actually this one:

I really like the illustration, the coloring, and the simplicity.

I do like the coloring of the new Commemorative Edition over the original novel cover, because the burnished gold looks very earthy, and it matches the beautiful Newbery insignia perfectly.
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Neil Gaiman
Release Date: Original Release: Sept. 30, 2008
Commemorative Edition: Sept. 30, 2014
Graphic Novel, Vol. I: July 29, 2014
Graphic Novel, Vol. II: Sept. 30, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Received: Both purchased and for review

Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place - he's the only living resident of a graveyard. 

Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians' time as well as their timely ghostly teachings-like the ability to Fade. 

Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? And then there are things like ghouls that aren't really one thing or the other. 

This chilling tale is Neil Gaiman's first full-length novel for middle-grade readers since the internationally bestselling and universally acclaimed CORALINE.


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