Book review: ‘The Graveyard Book’ gives Halloween new emotion

It takes a graveyard to raise a child



A whimsical story about family, protecting and fighting for those you love, adventure, loss, evil, a boy’s journey of finding himself and the village it took to raise him. It’s ‘The Jungle Book’ turned spooky.


“I don’t remember anything about the days before I was a ghoul,” said the famous writer Victor Hugo.

“Nor I,” said the Emperor of China, proudly.

“Nope,” said the 33rd President of the United States.

“You’ll be one of the select band, of the cleverest, strongest, bravest creatures ever,” bragged the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

– Neil Gaiman, “The Graveyard Book”


In moments like this, I wish I was a child growing up with Neil Gaiman’s books.

Nobody “Bod” Owens is a living boy raised by ghosts in an old cemetery, and he is the main character of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant novel, “The Graveyard Book.” The book is a perfect story for this time of year: full of spookiness but also beautiful, hopeful insights about life.

This was actually my first Neil Gaiman book. I have been meaning to read his work forever and finally got a chance to dive in!

I absolutely loved his writing. I loved the diction and dialogue so much, and the characters were just so delightful— almost Dickensian. And as someone who grew up reading quite a lot of Dickens, it really touched my heart.

I cannot properly express how moved I was by this story, what I did not expect: to be in literal tears at the end of this book.

Bod Owens lives in a graveyard. Why? Because when he was just a baby, the rest of his family was murdered, and he escaped.

He was then taken in by the ghosts of the graveyard.

There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy — an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer.

Bod encounters so many fantastic characters in this story. Some of my very favorites were Silas (his guardian, who is neither living nor dead), Miss Lupescu (a werewolf) and Liza (a young ghost witch). ⠀

Bod had a childhood of motley lessons, plus he had to learn to make his own mistakes and the consequences of his actions. Parallel to that, Silas evolved as a father figure and learned to let Bod make mistakes and be a living boy outside of the Graveyard.

As Bod grows older, his desire to seek the outside world grows, too. But danger lurks outside the graveyard in the form of Jack, the man who killed Bod’s family. He is still out there looking for Bod, determined to complete his mission from years ago.

Will Bod be able to solve the mystery, or will he become one of the ghosts in the graveyard?

This book has the most superlatively chilling first chapter. It grabs you and simply refuses to let go until the end and after. It is full of fabulous characters that almost leap off the page.

This is scary in the best way. It is exciting and surprising and, at times, achingly sad.

“Bod said, ‘I want to see life. I want to hold it in my hands. I want to leave a footprint on the sand of a desert island. I want to play football with people. I want,’ he said, and then he paused, and he thought, ‘I want everything.’”

The novel is also full of heart and a beautiful meditation not only on mortality but on what it really means to be human and humane.

Since it was originally written for a younger audience, the plot is simple. I highly recommend it if you are looking for something light yet heartwarming this Halloween season.

“If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.” – Neil Gaiman, “The Graveyard Book.”