Nobody Owens Takes a New Form: A Review of The Graveyard Book volume 1

graveyard bookI loved The Graveyard Book from page 1.  I read the audiobook because Neil Gaiman reads it (definitely worth a listen.  His voices are amazing.)  And then read the book again for a YA Literature class in college.  I was the only person in the class who even remotely liked it.

When I worked at Borders, I had a very difficult time selling The Graveyard Book.  “You like fantasy?  Here’s a great book!” would always get the response, “It’s for children though.”  “Oh your kids like ghost stories?  You should definitely check out Neil Gaiman’s new novel!” would get either, “it’s too long” or “it looks way too scary for my kids.”  When children came to me asking for recommendations, most of them would look at the number of pages, and put it back on the shelf when they thought I wasn’t looking.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how people don’t get that The Graveyard Book is wonderful.  Yes, it has a child protagonist.  But so does Ender’s Game.  Yes, it gets really dark.  But so does Harry Potter.  The writing is stellar, the story is entertaining and gripping, and the characters are fascinating.

When I found out that it was going to be made into a graphic novel, I was at first hesitant.  Then some of the art started getting released online.  Neil Gaiman, who started in comic books, has selected some really talented artists to retell his award-winning tale, and I am a fan.

The-Graveyard-Book-pageThe Graveyard Book is the story of a boy whose entire family is murdered when he is a baby.  By sheer luck, he escapes getting murdered by crawling across the street to a graveyard where the ghost of his birth mother convinces another ghost and her husband to take care of him.  Not only is he raised by his ghost parents, Owens and Mistress Owens, but he is kept alive and educated by a vampire of sorts, Silas.  Nobody Owens, or Bod for short, knows that if he leaves the graveyard, he is putting himself in danger, but he doesn’t know why.  Volume 1 contains the first five chapters and the interlude of the original novel.

I’m not going to review the story, as it is the same as the novel, and if I haven’t made it clear yet, I think the novel is pretty perfect.  I really loved the art in this volume.  I thought the ghosts being in a blue-gray shade while everything else is fully colored was really neat.  Many of the original words from the novel make it into the comic book version, helping flesh out characters’ emotions and actions that might not be clear from just the illustrations.  There were seven different artists who worked on this book, which works really well for the story.  If you have not read The Graveyard Book, basically, each chapter is a story in Bod’s life.  They all end up connecting at the end, but at the beginning, each chapter has Bod a little older.  Having different artists for this worked so well.  Bod not only grows up, but he grows and is different.  It’s very cool to read.

tumblr_n9hsec9REs1qdlytco1_500One artistic choice that I didn’t love was that Silas, who is a vampire, looks too much like a vampire.  This is a modern day novel.  Silas has to survive outside the graveyard.  How on earth does he manage that in a Dracula-esque cloak and red eyes?

I was very surprised by the artistic interpretation of Night-gaunts.  That is not how I pictured the winged monsters. At. All.  I found them to be very endearing as depicted by Tony Harris and Scott Hampton.  I especially loved the way the Lady on the Grey was drawn.  It was one of those moments where what was in my head was on the page.

I definitely recommend this interpretation.  Whether it’s actually meant for children is debatable.  The opening scene of Bod’s entire family being murdered is extra graphic in this version, but the rest of the graphic novel is all-ages appropriate.

Love Neil Gaiman?  Love The Graveyard Book?  Tell me why in the comments!!!  Also, enter for a chance to win a gloriously beautiful poster of The Graveyard Book signed by Neil Gaiman!


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