The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is amazing, of course. He’s one of those authors whose entire works I’d like to read. So I picked up The Graveyard Book, a children’s novel about a boy who grows up in a cemetery. It’s eerie and funny and whimsical and scary. It’s on about the same reading level (and interest level, and level of violence and language, etc) as the first three Harry Potters, so it’s perfect for anyone who’s at least 8 years old or so.
As a baby, Nobody Owens, called Bod, wandered into the cemetery after his parents were killed. He’s adopted by the ghosts, who raise him and teach him all they know. Much of the book is concerned with his education in the graveyard and in a more traditional school, and his relationships with the graveyard’s interesting inhabitants. The climax of the book comes when his parents’ killer comes back for him.
The story follows a satisfying episodic structure, with elements that will be important in the climax introduced early on, and a movement toward Bod’s growing up and becoming independent throughout the book and especially at the end. Like many fantasy novels, it ends with the loss of the fantasy and the movement into reality. The language is clear and fitting, with some surprises in descriptions, names, and phrasing, as well as Britishisms. The copy I read also had some fun graphic-novel-like illustrations in black and white. It was fun to read, like everything Gaiman does.