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The Graveyard Book: Hey, I Liked a Neil Gaiman Book

"Someone killed my mother and my father and my sister."  
"Yes. Someone did." 
"A man?"" 
"A man." 
"Which means,' said Bod, "you're asking the wrong question." 
Silas raised an eyebrow. "How so?" 
"Well," said Bod. "If I go outside in the world, the question isn't 'who will keep me safe from him?'" 
"No. It's 'who will keep him safe from me?'"

After reading Good Omens -- which is stellar and if you haven't read it you should, good Lord, get on that -- I had a theory based on basically nothing that you were either a Neil Gaiman fan or a Terry Pratchett fan. Meaning, more precisely, a fan of their writing. I'd tried Stardust and disliked it, then American Gods and disliked it, and what I ended up deciding was that Neil Gaiman has good ideas, but is not great when it comes to getting them down on paper.

I'd like to change that conclusion a bit and say that Neil Gaiman is actually quite good at children's lit (also at writing Doctor Who episodes, but that is beside the point). Because The Graveyard Book is simple and excellent.

For the maybe two of you who haven't read it, it concerns a young boy named Bod whose family is murdered at the very start of the book, and he is then adopted by the ghosts of the nearby graveyard. So he grows up in a graveyard and gets all sorts of fun graveyard powers. It's unusual and keeps your interest, but never descends into some sort of Home Alone-esque slapstick situation (even though that is a very real possibility at one point in the book). The tone is well-maintained throughout the book, so bully for you, Gaiman. 

I did, towards the end, semi-panic about how he was going to wrap things up with so little space left, but wrap it up he did. He also obviously spent quite a bit of time in graveyards while writing this, as he gets the epitaphs down rather well. I visited the Quincy, Massachusetts cemetery across from the church with John Adams's crypt a couple years ago, and was rather surprised by the sassiness of people in the 18th century (we in Illinois pretty much start our tombstones in the 1820s).

One of them read:

"Stop here my friend and cast an Eye
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so must you be
Prepare for Death and follow me."

Thanks, Puritans.

So yes! Gaiman. Not bad. That's a relief. Maybe I can finally read Coraline


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