Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Graveyard Book

Newbery Award-winning The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was on the top of my reading list once I returned to the land of libraries (or rather, English-language libraries). I haven’t always been impressed with past Newbery winners, and Graveyard left me a little bit disappointed.

The book begins with a murder (actually, three murders). Although the murders’ description is not graphic, I found the deaths disturbing, and I am an adult reader. I can’t help but wonder what affect such details would have on a young mind.

One person, a child, escapes the murders by wandering into a graveyard. The child, Bod, grows up in the cemetery with other-worldly companions as his guides. The murderer, though, never forgets that Bod was the one who got away.

The murder mystery is intriguing, and the book begins and ends with this element. Yet, the middle of the book wavers from the mystery. Instead, the story meanders through anecdotes about Bod’s childhood and the graveyard inhabitants’ lives. Although some of these tales are charming, and they later play a roll in the novel, I felt frustrated at the book’s apparent lack of focus.

The Graveyard Book is well written and certainly creative. It is a fine book, worthy of reading, but I am just not convinced, in terms of organization and plot structure, that it was the best children’s book of the year.

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