The Graveyard Book

p. 13, Acceptance Speech
“I had set out to write a book about childhood – it was Bod’s childhood, and it was in a graveyard, but still, it was a childhood like any other; I was now writing about being a parent, and the fundamental most comical tragedy of parenthood; that if you do your job properly, if you as a parent, raise your children well, they won’t need you anymore. If you did it properly, they go away. And they have lives, and they have families, and they have futures.”

Reading. Reading. Reading.  Still, a librarian’s main concern for her charges is all about reading. Squeezed into an tightly scheduled day for my students, every two weeks, is book club.  We do not meet in the refectory, but in the library. The doors close. The world drops away. We talk and listen; interrupt one another with mouths filled – words, thoughts and potatoes push and shove for their proper consumption.

We are reading The Graveyard Book by British author and Newbery recipient, Neil Gaiman.  I will put it to paper that I have not read his work previously.  It seemed a bit too fantastical, too eerie for me. Yet this summer, desperate to find something that would engage ten boys, ten through twelve years of age, I came across this title discounted at an online book store.  What could I lose?  A Newbery title, a scary story, and affordable (By now you are questioning why I ever became a librarian!).

Needless to say my dear boys are duly reading as assigned, but I for one, could not put it down.  And here is the conundrum for me. There is quite a bit that bothers me about the story. It takes twists and turns with events out of the blue, seems to lose characters as needed, and  never fully explains the ominous society in any depth. Yet, I read it. I think about it.  Bod stays with me as do the ghostly characters like friends I once knew and loved.  This book broke my heart.

The paperback edition ends with Mr, Gaiman’s “Acceptance Speech” for the Newbery. “”Ah”, you say, “How clever of the publishers.”  It is a kindness.  I know why my heart aches for Bod and his family – I am a parent, all too familiar with the leave-taking; the bittersweet sense of loss and accomplishment with which parenting permeates the body and the soul.

Again and again, teaching teaches me – let the criticism fall away, and allow the feelings to take precedence with a story.  Without my students I would not have chosen this title; I would not have discovered this kernal that every storyteller knows.

Gaiman, Neil, and Dave McKean,  illus. The Graveyard Book.  New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Print.

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