The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

graveyard_bookAuthor: Neil Gaiman; Illustrator: Dave McKean
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2008
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Pages: 320
Call number: Y Gaiman; J Gaiman

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife . . . .

So begins Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which won the 2009 Newbery Medal just a few days ago. The book opens with the off-page but still disturbing murder of an entire family by an assassin we know as the man Jack. The only survivor is a toddler who, not understanding what’s happening elsewhere in the house, leaves by the open front door and wanders into a nearby graveyard. There, the ghosts hold a meeting to decide what to do with this foundling, and the boy is eventually adopted by the ghost couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens. Because noone knows his name, he’s called Nobody — Nobody Owens, Bod for short. Silas, a member of the graveyard who is neither living nor dead (I’m sure you can figure out what that means), is appointed Bod’s guardian, however, and brings him food and books and tries his best to teach him about the world. As Bod grows up, he learns many secrets of the ghosts, but he eventually begins to see the attraction of life with the living on the other side of the fence surrounding the graveyard, including going to school and having friends his own age. The problem is, the man Jack is still looking for Bod, and only in the graveyard is Bod safe.

This is one of the best books I read in 2008, and one I’d recommend to anyone who will listen, from kids to teens to adults. It’s macabre, touching, quirky, and sad; it has depth and humor in equal measure; and there’s a quiet tone to the writing that suits its main character very well. Bod grows from a toddler to a teenager over the course of the story, and a lot of his frustrations are what you woud expect, despite his unusual upbringing: feeling penned in, feeling misunderstood, rebelling against his caretakers, wanting to explore past the safety of home. Bod’s life in the graveyard is never dull. The ghosts are all unique and interesting and sometimes quite funny, and Silas makes for a stern but caring protector (and one who is quite dangerous when he chooses to be). Bod gets in to plenty of trouble in his explorations and comes across many dangerous areas (such as an underground world full of ghouls, accessible by a gate hidden in a grave; and the mysterious Sleer, lying in wait in the barrow beneath a hill), all of which prepare him for his inevitable confrontation with Every Man Jack.

And if you’d like to hear Neil Gaiman’s most excellent reading of his novel, check out Gaiman’s official site, where he has video of himself reading each chapter from his nine-city book tour. I don’t know how long the videos will be up, so go watch as soon as you can!

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2009 Book Award Winners

The American Library Association announced the 2009 winners for many of their awards, including the Newbery Medal for books for youth and the Michal L. Printz Award for books for teens. Here are the winners and honor books for some of these awards.

Newbery Medal:
Winner: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
Honors: The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt; The Surrender Tree: Poems for Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, by Margarita Engle; Savvy, by Ingrid Law; and After Tupoc and D Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson

Printz Award (for a book written for teens):
Winner: Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta
Honors: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Vol. 2, by MT Anderson; Nation, by Terry Pratchett; Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan; and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart

Morris Award (a new award for a debut novel from first-time author writing for teens:
Winner: A Curse as Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

All of these books are available in either the children’s or teen’s section of the library, with the exception of Tender Morsels, which will be ordered in February.

Anyone read any of these books yet? What did you think? I will be posting my review of The Graveyard Book later in the week, but I’d love to hear more thoughts on these titles. Happy reading!

New Books — January 2009

Nonfiction

prince_stories

Prince of Stories: the many worlds of Neil Gaiman. Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden, and Stephen R. Bissette. 823.914 Wagner This book explores the work of Neil Gaiman, internationally bestselling author and pop culture phenomenon. “Prince of Stories” chronicles the history and impact of the author’s complete works in film, fiction, comic books, and more. There are also 16 pages of b&w photos and 8 pages color photos.

New Fiction

savage

The Savage. David Almond. Y Almond. Mysterious and mesmerizing, this graphic novel-within-a-novel pairs the extraordinary prose of Almond with the visual genius of McKean, for a tale of a boy who writes about being terrorized by a bully–a story with a life of its own.

good_neighbors

The Good Neighbors. (Book One: Kin). Holly Black. Y Black. Sixteen-year-old Rue Silver, whose mother disappeared weeks ago, believes she is going crazy until she learns that the strange things she has been seeing are real, and that she is one of the faerie creatures, or Good Neighbors, that mortals cannot see.

big_splash

The Big Splash. Jack D. Ferraiolo. Y Ferraiolo. Matt Stevens, an average middle schooler with a glib tongue and a knack for solving crimes, uncovers a mystery while working with “the organization,” a mafia-like syndicate run by seventh-grader Vincent “Mr. Biggs” Biggio, specializing in forged hall passes, test-copying rings, black market candy selling, and taking out hits with water guns.

looks

Looks. Madeleine George. Y George. Two high school girls, one an anorexic poet and the other an obese loner, form an unlikely friendship. This unforgettable debut novel tells a provocative story that explores the ways in which girls use food and their bodies to say what they cannot.

spirit

Spirit. J.P. Hightman. Y Hightman. In 1892, a wealthy, seventeen-year-old married couple, Tess and Tobias Goodraven, lay ghosts to rest for the thrill of it but, separated by the terrible witch who was responsible for the Salem witchcraft horrors, they may not have strength to survive, much less help the dead.

deadville

Deadville. Ron Koertge. Y Koertge. While visiting an injured classmate in the hospital, sixteen-year-old Ryan, who is trying to come to terms with his sister’s death from cancer, meets a young patient who claims to be able to see into the world where the dead live.

its_over

I Know It’s Over. C.K. Kelly Martin. Y Martin. Sixteen-year-old Nick, still trying to come to terms with his parents’ divorce, experiences exhiliration and despair in his relationship with his girlfriend Sasha especially when, after instigating a trial separation, she announces that she is pregnant.

bonechiller

Bonechiller. Graham McNamee. Y McNamee. Four high school students face off against a soul-stealing beast that has been making young people disappear their small Ontario, Canada, town for centuries.

vibes

Vibes. Amy Ryan. Y Ryan. Nothing is beyond Kristi Carmichael’s disdain. Yet for all her attitude and her mind-reading abilities, Kristi has a vulnerable side. A school project brings her together with her crush, her absent father comes home and drops a bombshell, and a friend comes out of the closet. Suddenly Kristi is left doubting that she can read people at all.

what_they

What They Always Tell Us. Martin Wilson. Y Wilson. Sixteen-year-old Alex feels so disconnected from his friends that he starts his junior year at a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, high school by attempting suicide, but soon, a friend of his older brother draws him into cross-country running and a new understanding of himself.

New Paperback Fiction

dooley

Dooley Takes the Fall. Norah McClintock. YPB McClintock. As a troubled teen struggles to free himself from his past and the implications of the present conspiracies that surround him, Dooley tries to prove his innocence in a suicide that looks like murder.

shadow_kiss

Shadow Kiss: a Vampire Academy novel. Richelle Mead.YPB Mead. While Rose is coping with the darker effects of being shadow-kissed, her relationship with Dimitri is finally taking off, and when he disappears during a Strigoi attack on St. Vladimir’s Academy, she must make a terrible choice.

in_flash

In a Flash. Eric Walters. YPB Walters. The first flash mob Ian puts together himself is a sixty-plus person, four-minute pillow fight in a department store. His friend Oswald is thrilled with the event, but Julia, the one Ian really wants to impress, is still convinced that flash mobs are stupid. While Ian tries to prove Julia wrong by initiating flash mobs with political impact, Julia is busy waging war with the strict new principal at school. When Julia goes too far and gets herself suspended, Ian sees an opportunity for a relevant and persuasive flash mob. – From publisher marketing