I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

One dark night, a creature named Jack entered a home and killed the parents and the daughter. But when he went to the attic to kill the baby boy in it's crib, it was not there. The boy was fond of escaping his crib and had earlier climbed out and scooted down the stairs on his bottom and left via an open door and headed down the street to the entrance of the graveyard where he was met by Mr. and Mrs. Owens' ghosts. The baby's mother's ghost appeared to them and begged them to protect her son.  A decision was quickly made and Mrs. Owens hid the child in the graveyard in her embrace and Silas, who is neither a ghost nor human redirects Jack to somewhere else and convinces him that the baby was never anywhere near the graveyard. 

Now a bigger decision is to be made about what is to be done about the boy.  Some do not think it is wise to keep the child in the graveyard, while others believe they have a duty to his dead mother to protect him.  It is all decided when the Lady on the Grey arrives on her horse and says "The dead should have charity."  Humans only see the Lady on the Grey when they die and ghosts rarely see her themselves, and she is afforded a great deal of respect so the child is placed in the care of Mr. and Mrs. Owens with Silas as guardian, since he can leave the graveyard and buy food and such for the child. He agrees and says that if a time comes when he has to leave for a while, he will find someone to act as guardian in his stead. So the child is given the Freedom of the Graveyard until he is grown, which means he can see in the dark, can be able to not be seen by humans, can see and talk to the ghosts and other things.  They give him the name of Nobody Owens, or Bod for short.

When he is five he meets a young girl, Scarlett, who visits the graveyard a lot, which is also a preserve, who can see him. Her parents tell her he is an imaginary friend so she accepts that and the two have adventures together, including going into the oldest grave in the graveyard which belonged to a Celt around 2,000 years ago and is protected by a specter that has kept others from coming out of the tomb again. But, Scarlett's parents move to Scotland and he loses his human friend.

Bod is not allowed to leave the graveyard because he is protected there and the creature Jack is still looking for him.  That does not stop him from leaving a few times, of course causing some close calls and trouble for him and Silas.  But his friendship with Liza Hempstock, a witch buried in the unconsecrated ground just outside the graveyard gate helps him on many occasions. 

Miss Lupescu, a friend of Silas comes to him one summer when Silas has to go away to deal with something.  The two get off to a rotten start as she feeds him food she has cooked that he cannot stand and she is a strict teacher.  Up to now he has been taught by the few ghost teachers they have been able to find in the graveyard, which means an education based on knowledge from the 18th century.  Miss Lupescu also teaches him what he needs to know about the world he inhabits, such as that there are the living, the dead, day-folk, night-folk, ghouls, mist-walkers, high hunters, Hounds of God, and Solitary Types, which is what Silas is.  Silas has no reflection, can mesmerize, does not eat, and does not go out during the day. But it will not be until the end of the book that you will truly understand what Silas is.  Miss Lupescu you will find out much sooner when Bod needs to be saved once again.

There is  more to Jack than meets the eye. But there is more to Bod and the others as well. Those in the graveyard will do anything to protect Bod and Silas and Miss Lupescu go well beyond the call of duty themselves.  This book is filled with magic and the difficulties and fun of growing up as a human boy among the supernatural with a graveyard for a home.  Gaiman has written a wonderful story with characters that you will truly care about and hate to see it end.

 If you couldn’t trust a poet to offer sensible advise, who could you trust?

-Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book p. 233)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Graveyard-Book-Neil-Gaiman/dp/0060530944/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474895398&sr=8-1&keywords=the+graveyard+book

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