I’m wary of bestsellers. More often than not, they’re bandwagon books, written to tickle the ears of the masses—here today, gone tomorrow.
I’m even warier of ghost books. What are ghosts? The spirits of the dead. Rather ghoulish subject matter for middle-graders, don’t you think? Lots of facets to that discussion.
So I was double wary of The Graveyard Book. Neil Gaiman wins the Newbery? Geez, the committee must have been desperate to jazz up their tighty-whity image. The Graveyard Book was certainly one in the eye for “inaccessibility.” But had the pendulum swung too far?
Our current culture taken into consideration, I think not.
The Graveyard Book is modeled after Kipling’s Jungle Book, with a human orphan being raised by an assortment of non-humans—animals, in the case of The Jungle Book, ghosts in the case of The Graveyard Book.
Gaiman’s prose is lovely. The episodic stories are timelessly drawn, laced and book-ended with the constant fear of the man who murdered the orphan’s family, and will one day return for the boy.
In a society that sees no harm in witches, vampires, et al, The Graveyard Book was a natural Newbery choice. Accessible to kids, yet well-written. Popular among the masses, and with librarians.
But for parents wary of desensitizing the young readers in their family, wary of stories that dash age-old archetypes of an unfriendly spirit world … these parents should read The Graveyard Book before their kids do. It’s a wonderful, engaging story on an increasingly popular topic, written from an increasingly prevalent (and unbiblical) worldview.
Paradoxical review? It’s a paradoxical world.