Module 3 Book Reviews

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Summary

Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book follows the life of a boy.  His family was murdered and he wandered out of the house arriving in the graveyard when he is 18 months old.  An old ghost couple, the Owens, decide to take the baby in and name him Nobody Owens, “Bod” for short.  They grant him free range of the graveyard, meaning that he can go through walls and tombstones and he is invisible to most humans in the graveyard.

As the book continues Bod grows older and we watch him meet new friends, some are human like Scarlett and some are ghosts like Liza.  Bod always seems to be getting into some sort of trouble weather it be the ghouls, the police or the man who murdered his family.  With the help of his friends Bod is able to escape and the reader gets to watch him learn through these experiences until he leaves the graveyard at the age of 15 with a suitcase, money and a head full of dreams.

Gaiman, N.  (2008).  The Graveyard Book.  New York:  Harper Collins.

My impressions

I had so many people recommend this book to me a few years ago.  I have never read a Neil Gaiman book, but all of my friends rave about him.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I like what I got.  I am a big fan of Tim Burton movies because of the gloom and darkness and this book had the same feel which drew me into this book.  I love to explore old graveyards and the creepiness presented in the book kept me turning the pages.  I liked that the reader gets to watch Bod grow over the years.  It was very easy to feel compassion for him and forgive the few mistakes and bad manners.  This was a great read and I will definitely recommend it to my patrons young and old.

Reviews

Raised by Ghosts

By MONICA EDINGER

Published: February 13, 2009

With best-selling books for adults and children — including “Coraline,” a brand-new animated movie — Neil Gaiman has carved out a passionate following in the world of fairy tale and fantasy. Now his latest novel for children, “The Graveyard Book,” has won a top literary honor as well: this year’s Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature. After the prize was announced last month, a debate ensued among teachers, librarians and critics about whether the selection of a popular author was a departure for the Newbery, one of the most prestigious prizes in children’s books — and, if so, whether it was a welcome one. Gaiman himself seemed surprised by the honor. “There are books that are best sellers and books that are winners,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.

But none of this will matter to readers — for “The Graveyard Book,” by turns exciting and witty, sinister and tender, shows Gaiman at the top of his form.

The story opens with a pretty terrifying situation: a man has slaughtered a family in the middle of the night, all save a toddler who escapes unnoticed, walking out the front door and away from the mayhem. (Parents may worry about the violence, but they shouldn’t. The action isn’t described, and the fourth-grade class I read the book to had no problem whatsoever.)

Up the hill trots the toddler, to a graveyard full of ghosts who take him in. The tone shifts elegantly from horror to suspense to domesticity, and by the end of the first chapter Gaiman has established the graveyard as the story’s center. Within its reassuringly locked gates, the boy finds a safe and cozy place to grow up. (Gaiman has said that “The Jungle Book” was one of his influences.)

Among the dead are teachers, workers, wealthy prigs, romantics, pragmatists and even a few children — a village ready to raise a living child. And they do, ably led by Silas, an enigmatic character who is not really one of them, being not quite dead and not quite living. In this moonlit place, the boy — who is given the name Nobody Owens, or Bod for short — has adventures, makes friends (not all of them dead), and begins to learn about his past and consider his future. Along the way, he encounters hideous ghouls, a witch, middle school bullies and an otherworldly fraternal order that holds the secret to his family’s murder. When he is 12 things change, and the novel’s momentum and tension pick up as he learns why he’s been in the graveyard all this time and what he needs to do to leave.

While “The Graveyard Book” will entertain people of all ages, it’s especially a tale for children. Gaiman’s remarkable cemetery is a place that children more than anyone would want to visit. They would certainly want to look for Silas in his chapel, maybe climb down (if they were as brave as Bod) to the oldest burial chamber, or (if they were as reckless) search for the ghoul gate. Children will appreciate Bod’s occasional mistakes and bad manners, and relish his good acts and eventual great ones. The story’s language and humor are sophisticated, but Gaiman respects his readers and trusts them to understand.

I read the last of “The Graveyard Book” to my class on a gloomy day. For close to an hour there were the sounds of only rain and story. In this novel of wonder, Neil Gaiman follows in the footsteps of long-ago storytellers, weaving a tale of unforgettable ­enchantment.

Monica Edinger is a teacher at the Dalton School in New York City.

Edinger, M.  (2009, February 13).  Raised by Ghosts (Review of The Graveyard Book).  Retrieved from

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/books/review/Edinger-t.html?_r=0

Suggestions

This would be a fun book to do an adult story time with, maybe near Halloween.  I might also read this book with our teen book club.   I always like doing a craft or related activity when we read a book.  For this book, we could decorate tombstones and have a contest with the wittiest sayings.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Summary

Miranda is a sixth grade girl in 1979whose mother is practicing to go on the game show $20,000 Pyramid.  The strange thing is that Miranda received a note days prior her mom’s acceptance.  The note told Miranda that her Mother should be expecting a postcard letting her know about her appearance.  Weird notes like this appear throughout the book, all of them telling Miranda about events that haven’t happened yet.  This book is part mystery (who is writing these notes?) and part coming of age (Miranda talks about her ex-best friend and how they fell out—by the end of the story she tries to make it right).

Stead, R.  (2009).  When You Reach Me.  New York:  Yearling.

My impressions

I always like a good mystery and time travel is one of those subjects that intrigue me.  This was a quick and easy read that I enjoyed very much.  It was fun to be in 1979 reliving things I had as a child.  A dream of mine was to be on $20,000 Pyramid (which I am sure most people would love to do), I was happy to recognize this show.

Reviews

Author: Rebecca Stead

Publisher: Random House

Age Range: Upper Primary – Adult

Awards: 2010 Newberry Medal Winner

Boston Globe-Hornbook Award for Fiction

2009 Indies Choice Award

ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book

CCBC Choices Book

Horn Book Magazine Book of the Year

School Library Journal Book of the Year

New York Times Notable Book

Themes: the complexities of friendships, self-identity, teenage years, bullying, fears, social structures, New York,  redemption, time, family, school

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions about books for children who are crossing that bridge from children’s literature to young adult literature.

It is such a tricky age for reading, but it is also the time to double efforts to engage them. Turning your child reader into a lifelong lover of books is one of the best gifts a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher or librarian can give a child. You don’t always have control over this (or anything!) but you can but try and know you’ve done your best!

Every now and then I find books which fit this age and stage of reading perfectly and ‘When You Reach Me’ is one such book.

Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighbourhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But as happens in life, things change. We grow up: grow away from childhood friends; make new ones and find out that life is far more complicated than we could ever have imagined.

For Miranda, life starts taking some very unexpected twists and turns. That is really ALL I can say without ruining this tale!

Confusing and perplexing…but also timeless, engaging and totally convincing. This book refuses to fit neatly into one genre and will challenge young readers to see that possibility of young adult books.

It is a clever, clever little book.

Daley, M.  Children’s Books Daily (Review of When You Reach Me).  Retrieved from

http://childrensbooksdaily.com/review-of-when-you-reach-me/

Suggestions

This is another great book for a younger book club.  There is a lot to talk about and explore such as friendship or time traveling.  A fun activity we could do with this discussion is to play $20,000 Pyramid, with answers that correlate to the book.

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