Authors performing their own work on audio is something just a tad bit special and Neil Gaiman reading The Graveyard Book is the best.
4/5 19/25 Possible Score
Plot – 3(Fine)
Characters – 3(Strong)
Setting/World Building – 4(Strong)
Writing Style/Narration – 4(Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 5(Very Strong)
The Graveyard Book is a children’s book for ages 10 and up but can be appreciated by adults as well. It all starts with the murder of a family by a man named Jack. However, the youngest of the family, a small toddler escapes his room, and out the door while the act is being committed. When Jack searches for the young boy, he finds him near a graveyard, but the young boy already has made friends with the local ghosts, and a mysterious man named Silas makes Jack believe the boy got away.
The young boy, now adopted by a ghost couple, is named Nobody Owens, Bod for short. Silas becomes the boy’s guardian and helps bring him all the necessities a live boy needs to live in a graveyard with a bunch of ghosts. Bod grows up in the graveyard and learns special abilities that only a person of the graveyard can do. As Bod gets older he meets more of the inhabitants of the graveyard and even ventures out into the town of the living. Jack is still always a threat to young Bod and it is just a matter of time before he finds out that the boy is still at the graveyard.
Neil Gaiman is in a class all his own when it comes to writing unique, imaginative books for a younger audience. Even though he is hit or miss with me on his adult books, I have yet to read a Gaiman book for younger readers that I have not enjoyed, and The Graveyard Book has set the bar for the best of his I have experienced.
Gaiman himself doing the audio narration adds a little something extra special to the book. Being intimately knowledgeable of your source material makes a difference for audiobooks. I feel like an author just understands what was in his head when he writes certain scenes, dialogue, or a specific tone that brings the book more alive. Gaiman is able to deliver a performance that adds a special emotion and atmosphere to the book. Also, there is music before some of the chapters and it adds a lot to the atmosphere.
The emotion of The Graveyard Book is so strong because of the focus of Bod growing up and the coming of age topics that he has to deal with. This isn’t a children’s book where everything goes perfect, it is a rather accurate representation of some of the difficulties that children go through, but with many fantastical elements. Unlike some older readers, I absolutely love reading coming of age stories, and I must admit I got teary eyed at the end.
I really enjoyed all of the side characters because they were all so distinctively different. When a lot of the characters are either ghosts or some type of mystical being, the character traits can be emphasized, where a human character would be over the top. The world that Gaiman creates is just a lot of fun to explore and learn. The plot isn’t anything special because of it being a children’s book, but that is fine.
I highly recommend this book and this is one of the few books where I will recommend a must for the audiobook. The narration presentation is one of the best I have ever listened to. It is more than just a guy reading a story, it is an atmosphere created by an author that has a plan for how he wants to represent his story.