The Child had been here. It was here no longer. The man Jack followed his nose down the stairs through the middle of the tall, thin house ... The man Jack sniffed the air. Then, without hurrying he began to walk up the hill." from page 10
This Newbery Medal winning book by Neil Gaiman is a fantasy-supernatural-mystery-coming-of-age story told in long, vignette-style chapters interspersed with black ink illustrations.
When Nobody 'Bod' Owens is just a babe his family is killed by a Man, and Bod barely escapes with his life. Serendipity finds the toddler Bod wandering out of his home while the Man is killing his parents and his sister. Bod wanders up the hill and into the graveyard near his home where the graveyard folk take him in, give him the Freedom of the Graveyard, and teach him the ways of the dead. Since Bod is too young when his parents are killed to remember his own name, his adoptive parents, the Owens, give him a new one and their last name.
Each chapter shares an adventure in Bod's life--from discovering the oldest grave in the graveyard to being kidnapped by goblins to befriending a young witch buried in the potter's field attached to the graveyard--as he grows up. Bod's mysterious guardian, Silas, who is neither alive nor dead, watches over him. Eventually Bod wonders about who he really is, who the Man is who killed his family--and why his family was killed. It is a mystery whose solution threatens the very existence of Bod and the sanctity of his graveyard home.
Gaiman's fantastical novel is enhanced by wonderful writing and re-imagining of beings such as goblins and werewolves. This novel will appeal to younger readings--for whom it is targetted--as well as older readers who will quickly see and appreciate that there is clearly a subtext underneath it all. This is a haunting story of very unique and very smart boy.
Something else I liked about this book was the satisfying ending that resists tying up everything in a neat bow. It's left a little open ended, leaving the reader to wonder what will happen next in the journey.
I highly recommend this novel it is available here at Matthews Public Library in Juvenile fiction; it is also available upon request from Annville Free Library, Lebanon Community Library, Myerstown Community Library, and Palmyra Public Library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie