Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Graveyard Post

In which I ask that you please read the whole post before saying, "WHAT?!" and flaming me.

A confession: I did not want to like Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.


1. I hated American Gods. I thought it was a smarmier, longer, less timely knock-off of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Sort of. Or something. It wasn't a well thought-out criticism. Neil, if you are reading this, apologies. Please see above note about reading the whole post before hating me or feeling bad about yourself.

2. I thought maybe the Newbery committee had picked it as a "ha on you!" to all the people whining about recent award winners and popularity and blah blah we love to hear ourselves talk, wonder how many of us wouldn't give an eyetooth to win the Newbery blah blah blah.

3. The story-lady-in-training at my library read Gaiman's The Wolves in the Walls at preschool story hour this month. It's the story of a little girl who thinks she has wolves in her walls. Then it turns out, oh, she DOES have WOLVES IN HER WALLS and they kick her family out of the house to the street. Captain Destructo could be heard for days asking, "Wolves in walls?"

4. Bitter writerly envy.

Oh yes, I planned to hate it. But I had to read it, if only to gloat.

The book starts with a knife dripping with blood. By the end of the first chapter, the knife and the scary man holding it have brutally murdered an entire family except the toddler, who escapes to the graveyard.

REALLY?! And you people had a problem with "scrotum"??????

I was joyous. This was going to suck and I would be RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT.

And then I kept reading. And reading. And smiling.

Now Captain Destructo, as you might imagine, does not excel at staying asleep, or at falling back asleep once awakened. This is because these activities require being still, which is anathema to him. So the plan when sharing a room with him is this: sneak into the room well after he is sleeping, get to the bed without touching the floor, slide under the covers, and remain in whatever position you find yourself for the rest of the night without breathing, snoring, or adjusting no matter how numb you become.

Despite this, there I was, well after midnight, reading The Graveyard Book by nightlight, risking the sounds of pages turning and sighs of contentment.

Yeah, it's that good. It's so good I don't even hate it for not sucking. It's dark and delightful. It's a coming-of-age story that doesn't disrespect where the child's been. It's Dickensian in its characters and lovely in its language. You can find more detailed reviews here and everywhere, but my favorite is from emilyreads. And yes, the murder is scary, but it's also off screen and, well, I got over it and so will most kids.

When Tinkerbell is old enough, the first snow day she has, we're going to make cocoa and snuggle in bed and read the whole thing aloud together. I can't wait.


Amber Lough said...

You beat me to it. I was going to do the same it and gloat about my superiority for disliking the book everyone else raves about. Since we seem to have similar taste in books, I probably won't hate it after all. And I'll start liking (and maybe understanding) Gaiman's tweets.

Diane T said...

I would never flame you, Jacqui. I'll just gloat: hahahahahaha I told you so! The Graveyard Book was delightfully imaginative, but at heart it was a real coming of age story with real kid emotions. Gaiman totally deserved the Newbery for this book, even if he is a Brit (grumble grumble).

Jacqui said...

Diane, you did tell me so. See, Amber? It's so good I can't even be indignant.

Jack said...

Jacqui- haven't read Graveyard Book but will based on your recommendation. In general I find Gaiman to be a very frustrating writer. He can write amazing 3 page vignettes but (my opinion) is a terrible novelist (except for the 3 page vignettes sprinkled through his novels). A+ imagination and description, D character depth and plotting.

Ann Finkelstein said...

I had intended to read The Graveyard Book, but after your post, I'll get to it sooner.

Has anyone read Gaimen's Blueberry Girl? I saw a You Tube video of it with the illustrations somewhat animated and Gaiman reading. I thought the language was lovely, but Blueberry Girl seemed to be written for the parent not the kid.

ephelba said...

I really like the scary-kids-book genre. One of my favorites that I can't stop raving about is Rosemary's Witch. The cover art on Amazon is atrocious, but the book is terrific. Truly scary. And Phillip Pullman's Count Karlstein. Oh yeah. Well Witched is suitable too. That said, having children of my own, I recognize that these aren't for reading to children willy nilly. Please tell me the story time lady doesn't have kids. I love Wolves in the Walls, but not for little kids. Older little kids, and even then, it's a matter of taste.

Jacqui said...

Jack, welcome! One nice thing about [i]The Graveyard Book[/i] is that Gaiman's chapters are mostly great vignettes that do develop both character and suspense. I hope you like it.

Jacqui said...

Ann, I haven't seen it; will check it out.

Ephelba, yeah. [i]Wolves in the Walls[/i] was a little much for the 2-4 crowd. I will have to find Rosemary's Witch.

Mary Witzl said...

I hated American Gods too! I thought it was too long, too full of stuff. My husband absolutely loved it and I couldn't figure out what he saw in it. So when all this fuss over the Graveyard Book came out, I nodded sagely myself and thought that I didn't need to read it because I was bound to hate it. And now I read this.

Hell's bells: my reading list is beginning to look like Route 66.

Mary Witzl said...

I love the thought of Neil Gaiman checking out your blog and getting all hurt to read that we didn't like his work. Wouldn't that be something?

Jacqui said...

Mary, I was actually kept up part of the other night about it. Part guilt, part too much caffeine, I think.