The Graveyard Book
New York: HarperCollins, 2008
They give lots of different kinds of awards for books. I wanted to get Elijah a Newbery Award winner. The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. It’s purpose is “To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.”¹ In other words, the author wrote a smashingly good book!
In 2009, Neil Gaiman won this award for The Graveyard Book. Nobody Owens, a normal boy, lives in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts. Why is he living in a graveyard? Is it scary? Bod Owens is not frightened. His parents, tutors and friends are ghosts from the graveyard. His guardian, Silas, may or may not be a vampire. He can’t leave the graveyard, his life will be in danger. Read this book and find out how Bod grows up and what happens to him.
“Sometimes, when he was smaller, people used to tell Neil Gaiman not to make things up. He never listened”.² Thank God! I hope he goes on making things up for a really long time. Neil writes for children and for adults. He’s written movies, books and graphic novels. “As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton”³. What good taste! These are some of my favorites as well. And he loved libraries! I think I am in love!
His books refuse to follow genre’s and fit nicely into categories. He believes in the future of libraries, reading, books and day-dreaming. Here’s a great piece he wrote for the Guardian in 2013: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming.
In the back of my copy of The Graveyard Book is the text of his Newbery Medal Acceptance speech. One of the first things he notes is winning the Newbery Medal made him cool to his kids. He remarks that this is as good as it gets as you are almost never cool to your kids.
It came to him as he finished writing the book that he wasn’t writing a book about childhood, but about being a parent. As he says, “if you do your job properly, they go away. And they have lives and they have families and they have futures.” I thought this book’s last lines were particularly poignant. “But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with eyes wide open.” I hold that same hope for my children.
From this same speech he said these insightful things!
Reading is important.
Books are important.
Librarians are important.
It is a glorious and unlikely thing to be cool to your children.
Children’s fiction is the most important fiction of all.
I forgot to add that NPR featured Neil Gaiman and The Graveyard Book on their Backseat Book Club http://www.npr.org/2011/10/28/141766112/kids-book-club-a-graveyard-tour-with-neil-gaiman.