Friday, February 4, 2011

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman--PhotoPeach

Bibliography: Gaiman, N. (2008). The graveyard book. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Summary: 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—an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.

But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family… (HarperCollins Publishers).

Tool: PhotoPeach

PhotoPeach is an easy-to-use slide show tool that creates pan and zoom effects. Users simply upload JPEG files, select music (users may upload their own music; however, creative commons music is provided by the site), and add captions, if desired. Like Animoto, if you want text in your actual image--in addition to the provided captions--then you will have to create slides in PowerPoint and save them as JPEG files. The only downside to this tool is that there is no option to edit font. Its simplicity, both in presentation and ease of use, however, make PhotoPeach an excellent tool for beginners to visual storytelling.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman on PhotoPeach

Review: Neil Gaiman, a sort of Renaissance man of letters, garnering critical acclaim for his comics and criticism, screenplays and song lyrics, poetry and prose, has returned to the genre of children’s literature with his Newbery award-winning The Graveyard Book. Complete with eerie black-and-white sketches by long-time collaborator Dave McKean, The Graveyard Book presents an intriguing twist on the traditional bildungsroman: what if a human boy was raised by ghosts, spending his childhood surrounded by the dead in a decrepit English cemetery?

This premise, combined with the surprisingly gory first chapter, is enough to pique readers’ interest, and the book begins promisingly. Because the graveyard is old enough to have inhabitants dating back to the Roman occupation, the supporting characters are all rather eccentric and enjoyable--take, for example, the 18th-century Mr. and Mistress Owens, Bod’s adoptive parents, and the medieval Liza Hempstock, drowned and burned for witchcraft. The narrative is simple and contemporary in order to place a greater emphasis on the various historic dialects spoken by the inhabitants: “Your duty, ma’am, is to the graveyard, and to the commonality of those who form this population of discarnate spirits, revenants and suchlike wights...” Each chapter presents a new adventure for Bod—-whether getting kidnapped by ghouls or attempting to go to public school with a name like Nobody Owens—-and each adventure leaves him a little more mature.

In his obvious delight in creating Bod’s whimsically macabre environment, however, Gaiman seems to have forgotten the central plot of his novel (remember the gory first chapter?), and his hasty attempt to create one in the final two chapters of the book is contrived and disappointing. Although the boy growing up in the graveyard is a first-rate idea and the graveyard itself comes alive through Gaiman’s excellent characterization, the author is unable to move the main plot along with any creative conflict, instead relying on such weak machinations as “self-fulfilling prophecies.” He should have stuck to the basic coming-of-age story.

Long-time Gaiman fans will enjoy The Graveyard Book, although it is unlikely that it will be as highly regarded as his other work, despite its status as “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” (John Newbery Medal). If you are reading Gaiman for the first time, however, start with Stardust for children and Neverwhere for teenagers/adults. Grades 5-8.

1 comment:

  1. Cool book trailer! I do agree that The Graveyard Book isn't Gaiman's best work, but satisfying. Great review.
    ~ Annie