Late to the party (as usual)


This does not fit in my purse. Ever.

You know those “Best of 2012” book lists? They generally make me bitterly resent the fact that I have constraints like work, exercise, laundry, and people. This year I had read one or maybe two titles from those lists (Chris Ware’s Building Stories, a graphic “novel,” isn’t doing as well as it should on those lists: try carrying around a box of artwork – no, you can’t get it on your smartphone — and reading it when you have a few free minutes. Just try. You will fail.)

As usual, I’m late to the party. My favorite book of 2012 is not a 2012 title but is from 2008: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which won the Newbery (2009). Like many of my librarian colleagues, I check out more books than I can actually read. When The Graveyard Book was hot, I checked it out, read five pages, waited a few weeks, and then was forced to return it, unread.


What?! You haven’t read it yet?

This year I listened to it on audio (Neil Gaiman himself is the narrator) and I was stunned at how much I loved it. Genre-wise, it’s fantasy: a toddler’s family is murdered, and he miraculously escapes and wanders into a graveyard. At the bidding of his dead mother, the inhabitants promise to protect him. He acquires the name Nobody (a great name to hide behind, because there’s a killer after him) and grows up with the freedom of the graveyard, protected from the outside world, while having the advantages of knowing a group of people (dead) from different times in British history who love him and want to protect him. They’re funny, well-drawn, and poignant (the witch is my favorite). His childhood – barring the fact that he’s surrounded by and supervised by the dead – has all the markings of a normal, happy childhood. He’s schooled, makes mistakes, goofs off, dreams, and gradually grows up.

Recently, I recommended it to a parent who had come in looking for something for her 12-year-old son. When I showed it to her, she shook her head and declared it “too dark” and told me she didn’t want something that showed the world as a dark place. This conversation took place (literally) five days after the Newtown shootings. Some fights aren’t worth it. She left with some insipid soccer fiction. The world is a dark place. Nobody’s case makes that clear, but he still manages to have wonderful friends and a good life in spite of that.


About Carey Hagan

I'm a reference librarian in Virginia and I do children's and YA [young adult] reader's advisory.
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