Neil Gaiman’s “The graveyard book” is made of awesome

The graveyard book is billed as a book for children, and I suppose it is. After all, it won an award for children’s literature. That being said it’s the only award-winning children’s book I can recall where a serial killer hunts and slaughters the family of the protagonist in the first few pages.

Now, that of course sounds shocking, but I’m being devious here: you’ve seen this beginning before.

This is the beginning of The jungle book, by Rudyard Kipling, isn’t it? A tiger eats a boy’s parents, leaving him an orphan. You know that in the final act the boy and the tiger will meet, and by killing Shere Khan, Mowgli will become a man.

Actually, no, I’m being devious again: by becoming a man, and mastering fire, Mowgli defeats his tiger. See, it’s backwards of what you expect from a basic bildungsroman.

Neil Gaiman is very overt in expressing his debt to Kipling for the plot of The graveyard book. There are differences, of course. He hangs the entire thing in the genre of horror, rather than the jungles of the Victorian imagination. I really enjoyed this, because it lets me play “spot the parallel”. Are the Owenses the wolves? Is Bagheera, the dark hunter, Silas? The ghouls seem to be the bandar-log… It’s a great deal of fun, on a book nerd level.

If you enjoyed meeting Mowgli, you should meet Nobody Owens, and if you liked Nobody Owens, and you’ve only ever met Mowgli through Disney, perhaps you should make his acquaintance.