“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”
The first sentence of The Graveyard Book
Though The Graveyard Book has been marketed to younger teens in the U.S., it is sold as an adult book in some places. As soon as you start reading, you’ll see why. The tale opens with a man and a knife and a family being murdered. Though three are killed, the youngest, a baby about a year and a half old, climbs out of his crib and wanders away, ending up in a nearby graveyard—an old graveyard, no longer in use except as a nature sanctuary.
The inhabitants of the graveyard—all ghosts except for Silas, who is neither alive nor dead—argue mightily about the boy’s fate, but in the end, he is kept by the Owens’, who in life never had children. Silas agrees to be the boy’s guardian. Thus Bod—short for Nobody Owens (“so named because he “looks like nobody but himself”)—is raised where he is given ‘the freedom of the graveyard’ and therefore can practice skills like fading and haunting. He grows up exploring chapel mausoleums, ancient burial chambers and the home of the monstrous creatures as well as accidentally entering the ghoul gate and endangering his life. Outside the graveyard danger also awaits as the man Jack, who assassinated Bod’s family, is still looking for him.
The community of the dead includes several teachers and other useful sorts. Bod learns what he needs to know, but longs for the friendship of the living as well as the dead. But when he goes outside the graveyard, he learns of the ancient order responsible for his family’s death.
This is a quick read and a very original book. It’s not all dark—there are lots of puns and much fun to be made of the inhabitants of the graveyard, like the failed poet who recites some (pretty awful) lines for Bod. A plus is the inclusion of illustrations.