Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book by Frances L. Gonzalez-Garcia

Each night is kissed by the moonlight and hugged by the millions of stars that set the stage for the greatest event in store for any seven-year-old – BEDTIME!

I remember vividly, looking forward to this much-anticipated hour, minute and second of everyday; because, unlike the cliché version of a child being tucked into bed, being read a classic and kissed goodnight to dream of only the luminous gift of words that dance relentlessly through the restful mind-my bedtime story was on the contraire a life of dreams that I never wanted to greet with the closing of my eyes.

My storyteller was an illiterate, Spanish-speaking 75-year-old abuelita who instead of fulfilling her “bedtime duties” of putting me to sleep, stirred me up with soulful excitement that could only be stirred by her carefully crafted stories that spoke of tales and truths, life and death- her stories.

Ah, now that was the life.

As I grew much older, all that was left of my storyteller were the stories she left behind.  I realized that only a few can master the key in breathing life to visions that stem from personal experiences and untamed imaginations.  And with that said, it was only a matter of time before long that The Graveyard Book would fall into my hands and find a place in my literary heart and soul.

Written by the English prolific author Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book was simultaneously published in Britain and US during 2008 and was critically acclaimed receiving top literary awards including the Newberry Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature, British Carnegie Medal, Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for the Best Young Adult Book , and most importantly 5 stars and two thumbs up by my students!

Gaiman’s book was inspired by Kipling’s The Jungle Book and his two-year-old son who seemed to enjoy riding his bicycle near the graveyard. Over a twenty year span of being indecisive as to whether or not he was a “good enough” writer for this book, his daughter listened to a page and asked him what every writer knows is deemed as an obligation to the life of a reader…”What happens next?”.  This question served as a springboard to continue and complete this book.

The Graveyard Book is a children’s fantasy novel written in a serial-life episode that transcends into a coming-of-age novel.  Its opening scenes of a family murdered by a man called Jack (who is part of a brotherhood known as The Jacks of All Trades) leads to the family’s toddler escaping the murders and finding himself orphaned only to be protected and raised by those who dwell in the graveyard.

graveyard book

The saying of, “It takes a village to raise a child” is the underlying concept of the book that is embraced by characters such as an Angel of Death,  a vampire, a werewolf, ghouls, ghosts, witches and even a poet amongst others who take it upon themselves to raise a living child, Nobody Owens (Bod for short).

This magical book is filled with rich scenery, strong characterization, mysteries and adventures.  It entails elements of symbolism, imagery and allegory that brings forth the tales and truths of the author himself.  One part that I particularly appreciated was the glimpse of how symbolism was depicted in the book through the use of tombstones in the graveyard.  The tombstones served as a gateway throughout the story for the main character to have the ability to venture in and out of his own world. Gaiman later explains that this is equivalent to the gateways provided by books in which he had the luxury to experience early in his life.

The book is relished in multiple themes such as that of good versus evil, the supernatural, fate and free will, compassion and forgiveness.  These themes drive the book to be eerie, alluring and a thrilling place to spend 300 pages in.

Gaiman’s rich imagination and his ability to hold the key to storytelling makes him indeed a great storyteller!

Neil Gaiman’s Website:

Neil Gaiman at Bookfest 2008 :

Frances L. Gonzalez-Garcia is an Elementary Reading Specialist in San Antonio, Texas who grew up in the world of storytelling and fell in love with literature early on.  A literacy advocate at heart, she hopes to one day find the “key” to bringing life to her own tales and truths.  Until then, Frances enjoys and lives for the moments in which she is able to teach kiddos to breathe life into the pages of their books, unleash their imaginations and escape into the world of literature.

You can visit her website or follow her on twitter