After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against award-winning books. In fact, that’s part of what draw me to them if I haven’t read them yet. But, when I am drawn toward them, I warn myself to be cautious. Because a lot of award-winning kids books have the same story line.
Example synopsis points:
a) contemporary book
b) about a young kid, eleven, twelve, thirteen
c) bad parents or parents that are working all the time
d) typically either one kid or a bunch of kids
e) the narrator has a inanimate object or a pet for a best friend/has the wierdest person at school for a best friend, i.e. goldfish, rock, skateboard, piece of wood, toothbrush
d) someone dies in the family, i.e. the ‘unthinkable’ happens
e) have to pull each other together/main character has endearing feelings of guilt and everyone tells the main character that it’s not their fault
Let me use See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles as an example.
a) you can tell from the title and cover
b) Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible.
c) It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant;
d) Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention.
e) Starting middle school brings all the usual challenges — until the unthinkable happens, and Fern and her family must find a way to heal.
It is heartbreaking, but it also annoying predictable. It seems like people are just throwing imaginary people’s lives away. I didn’t not like See You at Harry’s, in fact I liked it a lot, but the story line was so….textbook. I mean, unthinkable means impossible to imagine, inconceivable. Synopsis writers use this term so often that it’s like we’re all in a showing of the Princess Bride. Which was an amazing movie, by the way.
Then you ask the all-important question. What the heck does this have to do with the Graveyard Book?
I just have to say—this book is pretty much NOTHING LIKE the before-described contemporary book. I loved it, and it has the charisma and magic that keeps me going on reading it and having fun as I read it. A great book. Neil Gaiman kicks it all off with a triple homicide that shakes Bod’s world. Bod’s parents and older sibling are killed and only Bod himself escapes as a crawling, wandering toddler.
This is no sweet, heart-warming story of candy and butterflies. It’s got a heart-warming ending, but in it’s own way. It’s well-written and the plot-line is exciting. It’s really nice to see Bod grow up from a child to an adult. He makes you realize and think about what it means to be alive and what you can do with your life. Great book, 4.3 stars. Highly recommended for girls and boys 11-13
pg count for the hardback: 312