The Graveyard Book

2009-03-11I haven’t blogged about individual books yet on this blog, but staying true to her name, the Well Read Rabbit does read a LOT (about 3 or 4 books a week) and felt compelled to write about this one.

Neil Gaiman is a genius.  Not just your run of the mill ‘has a brain bigger than a small planet’ or ‘invented something life saving’ genius.  But a genius of words and worlds.  I have always been a big fan of his, from his picture books (Wolves in the Walls) to his children’s novels (Coraline) and Adult novels (American Gods).  But for me, The Graveyard Book went beyond.  It is part fable, part adventure, but always subtle and genuine and real.  A story that moves between worlds, shifts your sense of reality and is imbued with magic, but was ultimately about a small boy growing up and trying to find his place in the world: Gaiman combines such things with an enviable ease.  He has a wonderful ability to create characters that experience incredible things, but always react calmly and thoughtfully, and they are all so uniquely quirky and vivid and flawed.  The writer side of me knows Gaiman as the king of dialogue.  Dialogue is an art that is deceptively hard to master, and his always reads like a song.  I agree whole heartedly with Garth Nix‘s assessment of the book:

I wish my younger self had the opportunity to read and reread this wonderful book, and my older self wishes that I had written it.

But it’s not just Garth and I who felt this way about this book.  So did the Newbery Medal committee.  And Gaiman was his usual charming and unassuming self when he twittered about the morning the news was announced:

First: ‘Mr Gaiman briefly ponders putting marmalade in tea, then realises he has lost his mind.’
Then: ‘About to drink second cup of tea without Marmalade this morning. Also, I just won the Newbury Medal for THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.’
Finally, it sinks in: ‘Newbery, not Newbury. Also F***!!!! I won the F***ING NEWBERY THIS IS SO F***ING AWESOME. I thank you.’ (sans expletives, for the sake of innocent ears and eyes)

Gaiman’s way of tackling the question ‘Where do your ideas come from?’ has always fascinated me.  In the dedications section of the book, he mentions that his first spark for The Graveyard Book happened when watching his 2 year-old son ride his tiny tricycle through gravestones one summer (twenty-something years ago).  But apart from this, he is often a little more guarded in his discussion of the topic.  I suppose he gets the question a LOT.

Anyway.  Buy the book.  Read it.  Love it.  Then talk to me about it (there’s nothing I love more than a good book natter).


8 Responses to “The Graveyard Book”

  1. 1 sherylgwyther March 11, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    I love this book, Kath.
    As you know I often mention Gaiman’s genius and yes, I agree, ‘The Graveyard Book’ is his best so far. As Marcus Zusak says, ‘It’s joined my top-shelf books.’

  2. 2 Jaymis March 12, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Yep. Totally superb book. I gave it to Rachgirl for xmas and she loved it.

    I still like his twisty gritty things – American Gods – and Good Omens is still far and away his funniest work. Gaiman + Pratchett really was one of those collaborations which Just Worked.

    Graveyard will make a beautiful film though. I’m really keen for Coraline (though I haven’t read it yet). The tech behind it is seriously exciting:

  3. 3 Katherine Battersby March 13, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Coraline does look awesome, doesn’t it? Can’t wait to see it. You should definitely read the book, though.

    I like his twisty gritty things too. But I like that he doesn’t dull that down when he writes for young people – the ghoul gate scene in The Graveyard Book is pretty creepy!

  4. 4 jaymis March 18, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Neal was interviewed on the Colbert Report! Awesome talk:

  5. 5 Katherine Battersby March 18, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    He is so damn charismatic, even the interviewer can’t follow through on all his punch-lines. He is truly gifted with awesomness.

  6. 6 Madeline Stephenson March 25, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Haven’t read it yet, but it is on my list. My favorite “this book is genius” moment came with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” As much as I hated the ending, it made me think about the book for days afterwards. When I finally calmed down a bit, I was able to see the true genius behind the book as a whole.

  7. 7 jaymis March 25, 2009 at 10:36 am

    even the interviewer can’t follow through on all his punch-lines

    Well, to be fair, Colbert got a lot further than just about any other mainstream “journalist” I can think of would.. The Lord of the Rings quotes? That’s pretty superb stuff.

    @Madeline: Dragon Tattoo sounds pretty intense. I’ve been loving Peter F Hamilton’s sprawling, epic, sci-fi corporate crime thriller explosions, but it’s over a year between drinks at the moment, so it may be time to look around a little.

  8. 8 Katherine Battersby March 26, 2009 at 8:46 am

    True, James. Neil is superbly (but always quietly) very clever and witty. He often looks like he’s been stumped, but then comes out with a pearler. Love it.

    And Mady, I will put it on my reading list. Sounds like challenging read, but worth it.

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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