The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Review by Teresa Schmidt, librarian
When a man named Jack brutally murders his family, a young baby escapes his house and toddles up the hill to the local abandoned graveyard/nature preserve. Realizing that he is all alone, the "residents" of the graveyard take the baby in, giving him their protection and the Freedom of the Graveyard. What follows is the story of Nobody Owens, a child adopted by ghosts and creatures of the night.
Nobody ("Bod" for short) has a series of adventures as he discovers what it is like to walk the borders between the living and the dead. Since Jack is still looking for him, Bod is forbidden to leave the graveyard.
He takes lessons from ghostly teachers, makes friends with those who visit the graveyard, and learns how to perform feats that only ghosts should do, like 'fading' from notice, opening ghoul gates, slipping through walls, and seeing in the dark. But a living boy can only hide among the dead for so long, and soon enough Bod goes into the world to learn what life is about, and to discover the secrets from his past.
I listened to the audio recording of this book read by the author, and I'd highly recommend it if you have the time to listen to a 7 CD set. Gaiman's mild English accent (he's been living in Minnesota for quite a while now) adds to the atmosphere of the book, and his talented performance gives each character a distinct voice without being irritatingly artificial. Combine Gaiman's reading skills with an appropriately spooky rendition of "Danse Macabre" performed by Bela Fleck, and you have a delightfully dark listening experience. I highly recommend it for older children (maybe 9 and up), teens and adults alike!