The world is a dangerous place for young Nobody Owens, dangerous enough that the only safe place for him is a mouldering graveyard. There he is cared for, protected, and raised by ghosts and other creatures more often found in nightmares than as the caretakers of young boys.
Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book was inspired by Neil seeing his young son (who is now grown and recently, happily, married!) riding his bicycle among gravestones near their new house. From there, with an assist to structure from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, we get the treat of young Nobody Owens. Bod, as he is nicknamed, crawls out of his crib the night a mysterious man slaughters his family, and finds his way to a cemetery. Once there the denizens,under the prodding of the Owenses, take on the responsibility of raising the boy and sheltering him. Helping them do so are a mysterious man named Silas and the strange Ms. Lupescu, who calls herself a Hound of God. Part of the fun of the book is the way these stand-ins for Bagheera and Baloo are implied to be vampire and werewolf, rather than directly named as such.
In these first few chapters, we also meet Scarlet Perkins, a precocious girl about Bod’s age who assumes he is a figment of her imagination because her mother tells her no child would live in a cemetery. It’s a sweet confection of a concept. It reminds me of kind of story that comes from the same fantasies Tim Burton often draws from, where friendships form among odd children who implicitly know to look beyond the textbook definition of “normal” when choosing friends.
There are plenty of adventures to come as this Read-Along project continues. Thanks to Stainless Steel Droppings for organizing this, I loved the book when it first came out, and I’m looking forward to revisiting it through the month, and seeing what others have to say about it as well.