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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

By Yossarian | Books | March 30, 2010 |

By Yossarian | Books | March 30, 2010 |

This is going to be a good week for exercising our ability to compare and make connections between works. We can start with the obvious connection between The Graveyard Book and the Jungle Book, although with the late start this month I don’t think very many people got to read both. Still, even a passing familiarity with Kipling’s story (or, even the Disney retelling) can allow you to draw some connections between these stories. For one thing, the format is very similar. The Jungle Book was very episodic, focusing on different animal groups or Jungle traditions with each chapter. And there are parallels between Jungle and Graveyard characters, too. Kipling had more poetry.

Another thing that would be interesting is a discussion of The Graveyard Book in the context of Gaiman’s overall body of work. It is interesting because he has done comics (including the epic Sandman series) adult novels, short stories, children books, young adult fiction, and also dabbled in moves and television. He tends to work with similar themes across these different mediums, but does a good job of tailoring them to different audiences. I think he has had at least one highly regarded foray into each of those mediums. Since I know we have a lot of Gaiman fans here, expanding to address his other work in relation to The Graveyard Book is welcomed.

But let’s not move to far away from the book at hand. There is plenty to explore in this novel. I think the central theme here is presenting Bod’s story as an allegory for childhood. The fantasy and horror elements are there to enliven what is essentially a story about growing up. Even if you weren’t raised in a graveyard making sense of the adult world can be a strange and trying adventure. The extent to which this story “works” depends on how well you can relate to the little person at it’s center. Some readers have kids of their own to relate this material too and others have to recall their own childhood. I really wish we had some perspectives from 9-12 year olds because I would be fascinated to hear their take on it (anyone have access to a tween that has read this?) I wonder what they would get from it?

The other major parallel going on is comparison between the Graveyard society and the human society. Like with Kipling’s Jungle Book the alternative world is governed by lots of rules and hierarchies. In fact, in many ways the Jungle and the Graveyard seem to be more efficiently organized than messy, human society and in that way offer criticism on the ways of man. So what is Gaiman saying about us with this book?

I don’t want to go on and on in the initial post, because the Book Club is all about the conversation. I didn’t get into very many specifics but this novel was full of imagination and storytelling that can be dissected further for more meaning. It may be written so that it is accessible for ten year old kids but there are a lot of things that would go over the kids head that are put there for more mature, experienced readers. What did you find in the Graveyard Book?

There are great reviews up by individual Pajibans on their blogs:


Pinky McLadybits

Commander Strikeher


Jen K.


Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.