As a little girl, Ali’s mom spent her summers at a Main beach house with her parents and her sister Dulcie. Whenever the beach house is mentioned, Ali’s mom begins to act strange, and Ali’s mom has never wanted to go back to the beach house, even though it sits there, still owned by the family.
One day, Ali finds an old picture of her mom and her aunt taken when the two were little girls. Oddly, a third little girl has been torn from the picture. Who is that girl? And why won’t Ali’s mom talk about her?
Ali’s mom is not happy when Aunt Dulcie invites Ali to the beach house for the summer. Ali is hoping to relax, far away from her mom’s over-protective hovering. One day at the beach, Ali and her cousin Emma meet a little girl named Sissy. At first Sissy is nice, and seems like a good playmate for Emma, but she soon reveals herself to be an angry, mean little girl who delights in scaring Emma with a story about Theresa, a girl who drowned at the beach about the time Ali’s mom was a kid. A girl whose body was never found. Are you creeped out yet? You will be! Author: Mary Downing Hahn
“There was a hand in the darkness and it had a knife. The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately. The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.” And you know why the blade and handle are wet, even though the book doesn’t say. Scary. Really scary.
But one person escapes the house, a toddler who makes his way to the neighboring graveyard and is taken under the protection of the resident ghosts to keep him safe from the mysterious man with the knife. And that, this very unconventional family, not the knife, is the heart of the story.
At first, the ghosts in the graveyard have a discussion about whether or not it is OK to keep the baby and raise it in the confines of the graveyard. A childless ghost couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, agree to raise the baby as their own. But as one of the graveyard inhabitants points out, “It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will take a graveyard.” And so the group agrees to offer the little boy protection from the danger that lies outside the graveyard fence and raise him as their own, a living boy in a village of spirits, ghosts and ghouls.
The Graveyard Book is a really delicious story about what makes a family and how that family raises up a child to go out into the world and face the dangers there. This book was just named this morning as the 2009 Newbery Medal Winner. One of the links below is to a set of online videos of the author, Neil Gaiman, reading the whole book outloud. Yes, you can listen to the whole thing. Cool! Author: Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book Trailer Narrated by Neil Gaiman:
And here is a review of this book from Bethany, a reader of IMCPL’s Readers Connection:
A murderer goes after an entire family, but the youngest member — just a toddler — manages to slip away… and toddle into a nearby graveyard. There, the toddler becomes Nobody “Bod” Owens and is raised as a living boy among the dead. Bod is taught the secrets of the graveyard, how to Fade and frighten people, but he craves human companionship. As he grows up, it becomes clear that those who originally wanted to do Bod harm want to see the job finished.
This is another one of those books that shouldn’t be labeled as a kid’s book, becaus grown-ups really should read it too. Gaiman’s spooky riff on Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” is great storytelling, with a full cast of delightful characters. Bod’s struggle to figure out what it means to be human among a graveyard full of dead people from different times is poignant and surprising.
Horace is apprenticed to a photographer and is disappointed to find out that part of his job is tricking people into believing ghosts are appearing in their family photographs. His disappointment turns to fear, however, when the image of a dead girl DOES appear in one of his photos. She’s back, and she’s NOT in a good mood. You might want to read this one in the daytime, yes, that’s it, in the daytime. Or maybe with the lights on. Or how about this advice…read this one when you are not alone. As the author Avi says, this story is about shadows, both visible and invisible, that are always lurking near. Oh, man, deliciously spooky from an all-time favorite storyteller. Author: Avi