The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book is a young adult fantasy novel by the English author Neil Gaiman, simultaneously published in Britain and America in 2008. The Graveyard Book traces the story of the boy Nobody "Bod" Owens who is adopted and reared by the supernatural occupants of a graveyard after his family is brutally murdered.

The Graveyard Book
TheGraveyardBook Hardcover.jpg
Front cover of first Adult's Edition
AuthorNeil Gaiman
Cover artist
  • McKean (Adult's Edition)
  • Riddell (Children's Edition)[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Seriesgraveyard home
GenreChildren's fantasy, horror fiction
Publication date
30 September 2008 (US)
Media typePrint, e-book, audiobook
Pages312 (first edition)
LC ClassPZ7.G1273 Gr 2008[2]

Gaiman won both the British Carnegie Medal[1][3] and the American Newbery Medal recognizing the year's best children's books, the first time both named the same work.[a] The Graveyard Book also won the annual Hugo Award for Best Novel from the World Science Fiction Convention and Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book selected by Locus magazine subscribers.[4]

Chris Riddell, who illustrated the British children's edition, made the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist. It was the first time in the award's 30-year history that one book made both the author and illustrator shortlists.[5] Time magazine included the novel in its list of the 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time.[6]

Concept and developmentEdit

Gaiman had the idea for the story in 1985, after seeing his then-two-year-old son Mike "pedaling his tricycle around a graveyard"[7] near their home in East Grinstead, West Sussex. Recalling how comfortable his son looked there, Gaiman thought he "could write something a lot like The Jungle Book and set it in a graveyard."[8][9] When he sat down to write, however, Gaiman decided he was "not yet a good enough writer" and came to the same conclusion as he revisited it every few years. He eventually published it in 2008.[10]

Each of the eight chapters is a short story, each set two years apart as the protagonist grows up.[10] Some chapters have analogues to Rudyard Kipling's 1894 work; for example, the chapter "The Hounds of God" parallels the story "Kaa's Hunting".[11]


The story begins as Jack (usually referred to in the novel as "the man Jack") murders most of the members of a family (later revealed to be the Dorian family) except for the toddler upstairs. Unknown to him, the toddler has climbed out of his crib to explore. The toddler crawls out of the house and up a hill to a graveyard where the ghosts find him. They discuss whether to keep him until the Lady on the Grey (implied to be the Angel of Death) appears and suggests that the baby should be kept ("The dead should have charity"). The ghosts accept, and Mrs. Owens (the ghost who first discovered the baby) and her husband, Mr. Owens, become the foster parents. The baby is named Nobody Owens (since Mrs. Owens declares "He looks like nobody except himself") and is granted the Freedom of the Graveyard, which allows Nobody to pass through solid objects when in the graveyard, including its gates. The caretaker Silas (subsequently implied to be an ancient and formerly evil vampire, now reformed) accepts the duty of providing for Nobody. The man Jack is persuaded by Silas that the toddler has crawled down the hill, and he eventually loses the trail.

The bulk of the book is about Nobody's (often called Bod) adventures in and out of the graveyard as he grows up. As a boy, he befriends a girl called Scarlett Perkins, and she is eventually convinced by her mother that he is her imaginary friend. It is with her that Bod discovers a creature called the Sleer, who has been waiting for thousands of years within a prehistoric barrow for his "Master" to come and reclaim him along with the treasures he guards (a stone knife, a goblet and brooch respectively). The Sleer initially attempts to scare the two away with a ghostly projection, but Bod sees through the ruse and the Sleer relents. Scarlett's parents believe she has gone missing during this adventure and when she returns, consequently decide to move the family to Scotland. Nobody is once captured by the Ghouls, a race of corpse-eating creatures that live in an alternate dimension accessed by a special grave called a Ghoulgate, and then rescued by his tutor Miss Lupescu, discovering she is a Hound of God (i.e. a werewolf). Bod befriends Elizabeth Hempstock, the ghost of an unjustly executed witch and through a short adventure that includes being kidnapped by a greedy pawnshop owner (one of the Man Jack's contacts), tricking the pawnshop owner, and stealing a gravestone for her. Once he tries to attend regular primary school with other human children, but it ends in a disaster when two bullies make it impossible for him to maintain a low profile. Throughout his adventures, Bod learns supernatural abilities such as Fading (allows Bod to turn invisible, but only if no one is paying attention to him), Haunting (which allows Bod to make people feel uneasy, though this ability can be amplified to terrify them), and Dreamwalking (going into others' dreams and controlling the dream, though he cannot cause physical harm). These abilities are taught to Bod by his loving graveyard parents, his ghost teacher Mr. Pennyworth, and Silas.

Years pass by, and it is revealed that Jack has still been searching for the toddler that he had failed to kill. He must complete his assignment or his ancient, secret society, the Jacks of All Trades, will be destroyed by the surviving boy according to an ancient prophecy.

On Bod's 14th year at the graveyard, Silas and Miss Lupescu both leave to attend some business. Meanwhile, Scarlett and her mother come back to the town after her parents got divorced, and she and Bod reunite. Scarlett has also made friends with a historian called Mr. Jay Frost who is living in a house not too far from the graveyard. Researching the murder of Bod's family, Scarlett learns that the historian lives in the house that Bod once lived in. Bod visits the house, in an effort to learn more about his family. When showing Bod the room he lived in as a baby, Mr. Frost reveals that he actually is the Man Jack; Jack Frost is his full, true name.

Bod is chased by the Man Jack and four other members of the Jacks of All Trades. Bod and Scarlett escape to the graveyard where Bod is able to defeat each Jack separately, except for Jack Frost. Jack Frost takes Scarlett captive in the chamber of the Sleer, but is then tricked by Bod into claiming himself as the Sleer's master. The Sleer engulfs Jack Frost in an "embrace", and they disappear into the wall, presumably "protecting him from the world", forever. Silas returns, and it is revealed that he and Miss Lupescu are members of the Honour Guard, devoted to protecting "the borders between things". With two other supernatural beings (the Ifrit Haroun and the winged mummy Kandar), they have fought the Jacks of All Trades throughout the novel (explaining earlier references made by the Jacks to losses in various cities around the world). Though they succeed in destroying the society, Miss Lupescu is killed in battle, to Silas and Bod's great sorrow.

Scarlett is shocked and appalled by the events of the night and Bod's questionable actions in the course of defeating Jack Frost (though it was the Sleer who killed Jack Frost, Bod knew it would happen and so arranged the events). Silas suggests the best course is to remove most of her memories of Bod and what happened that night. Bod disagrees with Silas, but Scarlett ends up with her memories taken anyway. Silas uses his power of suggestion to convince Scarlett and her mother to return to Glasgow.

End of story, spoiler alert!

In the final chapter of the book, Bod is "about 15" and is slowly losing the Freedom of the Graveyard and even his ability to see ghosts. At the end of the book, Silas gives Bod some money and a passport with the name of Nobody Owens. Bod says his good-byes to his ghostly family and friends and leaves the graveyard to embark on a new life.

Publication historyEdit

The fourth chapter, "The Witch's Headstone", was published as a short story in the Gaiman anthology M Is for Magic and in Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy and won the 2008 Locus Award for Best Novelette.[12] The book was released on 30 September 2008 in the United States by HarperCollins[13] and on 31 October 2008 in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury Publishing.[14] The cover and interior illustrations of the US edition were created by longtime Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean; he illustrated the UK edition for the adult market. The simultaneous British Children's Edition was illustrated by Chris Riddell, for which he made the 2010 Greenaway Medal shortlist.[3]

Subterranean Press published an American limited edition with a different cover and interior illustrations by McKean.

Harper Audio published an audiobook edition read by Gaiman. It includes a version of "Danse macabre" played by Béla Fleck, which Fleck provided after reading on Gaiman's blog that he hoped for "Danse Macabre with banjo in it". It won Audiobook of the Year (the "Audie") from the Audiobook Publisher's Association (US).[15]

Critical receptionEdit

The Graveyard Book was cited by the American Library Association for its "delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing", noting its "magical, haunting prose".[8] The New York Times's Monica Edinger was very positive about the book, concluding, "In this novel of wonder, Neil Gaiman follows in the footsteps of long-ago storytellers, weaving a tale of unforgettable enchantment".[16] Kirkus Reviews awarded it a starred review, claiming that, "this needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child".[17] Author Patrick Ness wrote, "what's lost in forward momentum is more than made up for by the outrageous riches of Gaiman's imagination" and praised the villains.[18] The Independent praised the novel's different tones.[19] Richard Bleiler described the novel as a piece of neo-Gothic fiction echoing back to Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto.[20] In 2013, a blogger recommended The Graveyard Book for children, describing the premise as "staggeringly original" and the structure "satisfyingly episodic".[21]


Literary Awards (Gaiman's text) Year  Result[4]
Newbery Medal 2009 Won[22]
Hugo Award for Best Novel 2009 Won[23]
Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel  2009 Won[24]
Carnegie Medal 2010 Won[3][25]
British Fantasy Award for Best Novel 2009 Nominated[26]
World Fantasy Award for Best Novel 2009 Nominated[27]
Mythopoeic Award for Children's Literature 2009 Nominated[4] 

Chris Riddell made the Greenaway Medal shortlist for his illustrations of the Children's Edition.[3][28]

Gaiman and Harper Audio won the 2009 Audie Award for their audiobook edition.[15]

Film adaptationEdit

In January 2009, filmmaker Neil Jordan signed on to write and direct a film adaptation for Miramax. In April 2012, Walt Disney Pictures acquired the rights and hired Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and the film adaptation of Gaiman's novel Coraline, to direct The Graveyard Book.[29] The film was moved to Pixar, which would have been the company's first adapted work.[30] After the studio and Selick parted ways over scheduling and development, it was announced in January 2013 that Ron Howard will direct the film.[31] However, as of 2020, no updates were announced.

Graphic novel adaptationEdit

Artist P. Craig Russell, along with Galen Showman, Kevin Nowlan, Jill Thompson, David Lafuente, Stephen Scott, Scott Hampton and Tony Harris, has adapted the book into a two-volume graphic novel. The first volume was released on 29 July 2014, followed by the second on 7 October.[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The American writer Sharon Creech previously won both Medals for different books, the 1994 Newbery for Walk Two Moons and the 2002 Carnegie for Ruby Holler.
    • The British CILIP inherited the Library Association children's book awards when it was created by merger of the library and information professionals in 2001. Around that time, the Carnegie Medal restriction to British publishers and British authors (British subjects) was relaxed to permit nomination of all new books published in Britain originally or nearly so (within three months as of 2012). Gaiman was also eligible for the Newbery Medal as he is resident in the United States, although not a citizen.


  1. ^ a b Carnegie Winner 2010. Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
    • This retrospective citation of The Graveyard Book for the 2010 Carnegie Medal (Gaiman's text) displays the Children's Edition with cover art by Chris Riddell, whose interior illustration made the 2010 Greenaway Medal shortlist.
  2. ^ "The graveyard book" (first edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  3. ^ a b c d "Releases for 2010 Awards" Archived 4 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Press Desk. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-29.
  4. ^ a b c "Gaiman, Neil" Archived 14 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine. The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index to Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  5. ^ "Neil Gaiman: CILIP Carnegie Medal Winner 2010". Press release 24 June 2010. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-11-05. ("Background on Neil Gaiman and The Graveyard Book" in the releases directory.)
  6. ^ "100 Best Young-Adult Books". Time. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Neil Gaiman Interview: The Graveyard Book". Scottish Book Trust. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  8. ^ a b Motoko, Rich (26 January 2009). "'The Graveyard Book' Wins Newbery Medal". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  9. ^ Grossman, Lev (26 July 2007). "Geek God". Time Magazine. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  10. ^ a b Kerr, Euan (18 October 2008). "Neil Gaiman's Ghostly Baby-Sitters Club". NPR. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
  11. ^ Schneider, Dean (March 2010). "It Takes a Graveyard to Raise a Child". Book Links. 19 (3): 6–8.
  12. ^ "2008 Locus Awards Winners". Locus Online News. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  13. ^ "The view from Chapter 8". Neil Gaiman's Official Blog. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  14. ^ "The Graveyard Book" (Adult Edition).
  15. ^ a b Gaiman, Neil (30 May 2009). "Finally not a bridesmaid actually". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  16. ^ Edinger, Monica (13 February 2009). "Raised by Ghosts". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
  17. ^ "The Graveyard Book". Kirkus Reviews. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
  18. ^ Ness, Patrick (25 October 2008). "Ghost Stories". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  19. ^ Martin, Tim (2 November 2008). "The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman". The Independent. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  20. ^ Bleilier, Richard.(2004). "21st-Century Gothic", p. 271. Scarecrow Press.
  21. ^ Davies, Rebecca (31 July 2013). "Children's Book Blog: Recommended read – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman". The Independent. Archived from the original on 3 August 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  22. ^ "2009 ALSC Award Winners". American Library Association. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2009.
  23. ^ "2009 Hugo Awaard Winners". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  24. ^ Doctorow, Cory (28 June 2009). "2009 Locus Award winners". Boing Boing. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  25. ^ Flood, Alison (24 June 2010). "Neil Gaiman wins Carnegie Medal". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  26. ^ "British Fantasy Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  27. ^ "World Fantasy Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  28. ^ "The graveyard book" (Children's Edition). WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
    • Unfortunately, this record from a participating library catalogue is linked to the cover image for another title, and WorldCat provides no other record for this edition (ISBN 9780747569015).
  29. ^ "Henry Selick To Direct Neil Gaiman's 'The Graveyard Book' In Disney Deal". Deadline Hollywood. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  30. ^ Medina, Joseph Jammer (3 June 2019). "Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book Was Shut Down At Pixar". LMR Online. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  31. ^ "Ron Howard in Talks to Direct Disney's 'Graveyard Book' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 22 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  32. ^ Melrose, Kevin (12 February 2014). "Get a peek at 'The Graveyard Book,' by P. Craig Russell & Co. | Robot 6 @ Comic Book ResourcesRobot 6 @ Comic Book Resources". Retrieved 1 August 2014.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Bog Child
Carnegie Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Monsters of Men
Preceded by
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
When You Reach Me