Gaiman, Neil and Dave McKean. The Graveyard Book. (2008). New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Summary: Chapters 1 through 5
This book begins with a murder scene. For a reason unknown to us, as readers, the family is cruelly stabbed at the hands of a man only known as “Jack”. He works to make sure every detail is covered, only to find out that the youngest child has escaped his grasp. The toddler walks easily out of the house and into the cool night air. When “Jack” realizes that he is gone, he immediately and frantically searches for him. The boy strays into a nearby graveyard and into the concerned arms of a long-gone couple named Mr. and Mrs. Owens. Somehow, Mrs. Owens knows he is in trouble and works to protect him. The visions of the boy’s parents appear to Mr. and Mrs. Owens, asking them to take care of the boy. As “Jack” traces the toddler into the graveyard, the boy disappears into the care of Mr. and Mrs. Owens. With the support of the others residing in the graveyard, Mrs. Owens vows to care for the boy and names him “Nobody Owens” (p. 25).
Nobody, or “Bod” as they call him, grows up to learn and live within the confines of the graveyard. He has a guardian, known as Silas, who helps bring Bod food from outside. There is not much known about Silas, as he admits that he does not belong to either world, the dead or the living. He is able to reside in the graveyard, but can also weave his way throughout the town to acquire the things that Bod needs as a living child. There is a young girl, like Bod, named Scarlett, who ventures into the graveyard to play. She never imagines finding a real friend there, but quickly takes to Bod. She enjoys being with this unusual boy and the adventures that he takes. Her parents did not fear the boy “Bod”, as they believed he was a harmless imaginary friend. Only when Scarlett insists on saying goodbye to Bod that they actually feel differently about his presence (p. 60).
There are many curiosities found within the graveyard. Bod has been given his boundaries, not only by Mrs. And Mrs. Owens, but by Silas as well. Bod works hard to please Silas, feeling that he always has information that proves helpful to Bod as a living being. He doesn’t want to ruin the confidence that Silas has placed in him. Once, Bod defies the rules given to him and discovers the underworld of ghouls, called Ghulheim (p. 81). This underworld is like no other and the ghouls convince Bod into joining them and they take him so far he doesn’t know how he will get back. Finally, a ghastly wolf-type creature rescues him and takes him back. This creature actually turns out to be his teacher, Mrs. Lupescu. She reminded me of the animagus creatures of the Harry Potter series. Professor Lupin, of Hogwarts, could manipulate his body into the form of a werewolf. Mrs. Lupescu could, as well, become a similar creature, part of a group called the “hounds of God”.
Within another restricted area of the graveyard, Bod meets a witch named Liza Hempstock (p. 109). Liza is an interesting person. I imagined that she lived sometime during theSalemwitch trials, because she was accused of crimes that seemed so silly. She placed a curse on her accusers (and murderers) which came true. All that helped to kill her died of a deadly plague. Liza was concerned, and somewhat hurt, that she had been buried without a proper headstone. When Bod leaves the graveyard to barter with a pawn shop owner, Liza is the one who follows him and rescues him. The pawn shop owner has contact information for the man named “Jack” and thinks that Bod is the boy “Jack” has been looking for, for these last 10 years. Liza teaches Bod how to “Fade” (as the dead do) so he can move easily in and out of rooms (p. 132). Bod ends up making a headstone for Liza from a paperweight he takes from the pawn shop. Liza is touched by Bod’s gesture.
Chapter 5 is different from the others. I wonder if it’s not a dream that Bod has. He sees everyone in the graveyard cleaning up for a special celebration. However, when he begins asking for details about this celebration, no one will answer his questions. Silas does bring him real clothes that fit him since winter is coming and Bod is now older. Bod wanders into the town to find everyone wearing special white blossoms from a winter flower. Tradition states that everyone in town wear this blossom in celebration. When Bod follows the music into the center square, he finds that the dead invite the living in a special dance called the “Danse Macabray”. They all dance together, for time unknown, and Bod gets a special dance with “The Lady in Grey”. Bod is fascinated by the Lady’s horse and comments on him. The Lady makes a comment to Bod that “one day everyone will have their chance to ride my horse” (p. 161). I think that “The Lady in Grey” is the mistress of death ~ the one who carries the living from their world into the world of the dead. She also appeared when Bod first came to the graveyard (p. 30). I think it was to escort Bod’s parents and sister. When Bod wakes up, he tries to talk to everyone about his experience. However, no one seems to know what happened and will not talk with him about the dance. Silas seems especially concerned because Bod knows about the dance and The Lady.
The man named “Jack” still searches for Bod. He is being pressured by others who feel that Bod’s existence somehow compromises something important. He vows to find Bod and “finish the business he started” (p. 169).
I keep wondering . . . is Jack a government official? Or a member of the mob?