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The Graveyard Book is a children's fantasy novel by the English author Neil Gaiman, simultaneously published in Britain and America during 2008. The Graveyard Book traces the story of the boy Nobody "Bod" Owens who is adopted and raised by the supernatural occupants of a graveyard after his family is brutally murdered.

Gaiman won both the British Carnegie Medal[1][3] and the American Newbery Medal recognizing the year's best children's books, the first time both named the same work.[a]The Graveyard Book also won the annual Hugo Award for Best Novel from the World Science Fiction Convention and Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book selected by Locus magazine subscribers.[4]

Chris Riddell, who illustrated the British children's edition, made the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist. It was the first time in the award's 30-year history that one book made both the author and illustrator shortlists.[5]

Concept and development[edit]

Gaiman had the idea for the story in 1985, after seeing his then-two-year-old son Mike "pedaling his BMX around a graveyard"[6] near their home in East Grinstead, West Sussex. Recalling how comfortable his son looked there, Gaiman thought he "could write something a lot like The Jungle Book and set it in a graveyard."[7][8] When he sat down to write, however, Gaiman decided he was "not yet a good enough writer" and came to the same conclusion as he revisited it every few years. He eventually published it in 2008.[9]

Each of the eight chapters is a short story, each set two years apart as the protagonist grows up.[9] Some chapters have analogues to Rudyard Kipling's 1894 work; for example, the chapter "The Hounds of God" parallels the story "Kaa's Hunting".[10]


The story begins as Jack (usually referred to in the novel as "the man Jack") murders most of the members of a family (later revealed to be the Dorian family) except for the toddler upstairs. Unknown to him, the toddler has climbed out of his crib to explore. The toddler crawls out of the house and up a hill to a graveyard where the ghosts find him. They discuss whether to keep him until the Lady on the Grey (implied to be the Angel of Death) appears and suggests that the baby should be kept ("The dead should have charity"). The ghosts accept, and Mrs. Owens (the ghost who first discovered the baby) and her husband, Mr. Owens, become the foster parents. The baby is named Nobody Owens (since Mrs. Owens declares "He looks like nobody except himself") and is granted the Freedom of the Graveyard, which allows Nobody to pass through solid objects when in the graveyard, including its gates. The caretaker Silas (subsequently implied to be an ancient and formerly evil vampire, now reformed) accepts the duty of providing for Nobody. The man Jack is persuaded by Silas that the toddler has crawled down the hill, and he eventually loses the trail.

The bulk of the book is about Nobody's (often called Bod) adventures in and out of the graveyard as he grows up. As a boy, he befriends a girl called Scarlett Perkins, and she is eventually convinced by her mother that he is her imaginary friend. It is with her that Bod discovers a creature called the Sleer, who has been waiting for thousands of years for his "Master" to come and reclaim him. The Sleer's greatest duty is to protect the Master and his treasure from the world. Scarlett's parents believe she has gone missing during this adventure and when she returns, consequently decide to move the family to Scotland. Nobody is once captured by the Ghouls and then rescued by his tutor Miss Lupescu, discovering she is a Hound of God (i.e. a werewolf). Bod befriends Elizabeth Hempstock, the ghost of an unjustly executed witch and through a short adventure that includes being kidnapped by a greedy pawnshop owner, finds a gravestone for her. Once he tries to attend regular primary school with other human children, but it ends in a disaster when two bullies make it impossible for him to maintain a low profile. Throughout his adventures, Bod learns supernatural abilities such as Fading (allows Bod to turn invisible, but only if no one is paying attention to him), Haunting (which allows Bod to make people feel uneasy, though this ability can be amplified to terrify them), and Dream Walking (going into others' dreams and controlling the dream, though he cannot cause physical harm). These abilities are taught to Bod by his loving graveyard parents, his ghost teacher Mr. Pennyworth, and Silas.

Years pass by, and it is revealed that Jack has still been searching for the toddler that he had failed to kill. He must complete his assignment or his ancient, secret society, the Jacks of All Trades, will be destroyed by the surviving boy. It is revealed that Jack originally went to kill the Dorian family because of a prophecy which stated that Bod would destroy the Jacks of All Trades.

On Bod's 14th year at the graveyard, Silas and Miss Lupescu both leave to attend some business. Meanwhile, Scarlett and her mother come back to the town after her parents got divorced, and she and Bod reunite. Scarlett has also made friends with a historian called Mr. Jay Frost who is living in a house not too far from the graveyard. Researching the murder of Bod's family, Scarlett learns that the historian lives in the house that Bod once lived in. Bod visits the house, in an effort to learn more about his family. When showing Bod the room he lived in as a baby, Mr. Frost reveals that he actually is the man Jack; Jack Frost is his full, true name.

Bod is chased by the man Jack and four other members of the Order, the Jacks of All Trades. Bod and Scarlett escape to the graveyard where Bod is able to defeat each Jack separately, except for Jack Frost. Jack Frost takes Scarlett captive in the chamber of the Sleer but is then tricked by Bod into claiming himself as the Sleer's master. The Sleer engulfs Jack Frost in an "embrace", and they disappear into the wall, presumably "protecting him from the world", forever. Silas returns, and it is revealed that he and Miss Lupescu are members of the Honour Guard, devoted to protecting "the borders between things". With two other supernatural beings (the Ifrit Haroun and the winged mummy Kandar), they have fought the Jacks of All Trades throughout the novel (explaining earlier references made by the Jacks to losses in various cities around the world). Though they succeed in destroying the society, Miss Lupescu is killed in battle, to Silas and Bod's great sorrow.

Scarlett is shocked and appalled by the events of the night and Bod's questionable actions in the course of defeating Jack Frost (though it was the Sleer who killed Jack Frost, Bod knew it would happen and so arranged the events). Silas suggests the best course is to remove most of her memories of Bod and what happened that night. Bod disagrees with Silas, but Scarlett ends up with her memories taken anyway. Silas uses his power of suggestion to convince Scarlett and her mother to return to Glasgow.

In the final chapter of the book, Bod is "about 15" and is slowly losing the Freedom of the Graveyard and even his ability to see ghosts. At the end of the book, Silas gives Bod some money and a passport with the name of Nobody Owens. Bod says his good-byes to his family and friends and leaves the graveyard to embark on a new life.

Publication history[edit]

The fourth chapter, "The Witch's Headstone", was published as a short story in the Gaiman anthology M Is for Magic and in Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy and won the 2008 Locus Award for Best Novelette.[11] The book was released on 30 September 2008 in the United States by HarperCollins[12] and on 31 October 2008 in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury Publishing.[13] The cover and interior illustrations of the US edition were created by longtime Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean; he illustrated the UK edition for the adult market. The simultaneous British Children's Edition was illustrated by Chris Riddell, for which he made the 2010 Greenaway Medal shortlist.[3]

Subterranean Press published an American limited edition with a different cover and interior illustrations by McKean.

Harper Audio published an audiobook edition read by Gaiman. It includes a version of "Danse macabre" played by Béla Fleck, which Fleck provided after reading on Gaiman's blog that he hoped for "Danse Macabre with banjo in it". It won Audiobook of the Year (the "Audie") from the Audiobook Publisher's Association (US).[14]

Critical reception[edit]

The Graveyard Book was cited by the American Library Association for its "delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing", noting its "magical, haunting prose".[7]The New York Times's Monica Edinger was very positive about the book, concluding, "In this novel of wonder, Neil Gaiman follows in the footsteps of long-ago storytellers, weaving a tale of unforgettable enchantment".[15]Kirkus Reviews awarded it a starred review, claiming that, "this needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child".[16] Author Patrick Ness wrote, "what's lost in forward momentum is more than made up for by the outrageous riches of Gaiman's imagination" and praised the villains.[17]The Independent praised the novel's different tones.[18] Richard Bleiler described the novel as a piece of neo-Gothic fiction echoing back to Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto.[19] In 2013, a blogger recommended The Graveyard Book for children, describing the premise as "staggeringly original" and the structure "satisfyingly episodic".[20]


Chris Riddell made the Greenaway Medal shortlist for his illustrations of the Children's Edition.[3][27]

Gaiman and Harper Audio won the 2009 Audie Award for their audiobook edition.[14]

Film adaptation[edit]

In January 2009, filmmaker Neil Jordan signed on to write and direct a film adaptation to Miramax. In April 2012, Walt Disney Pictures acquired the rights and hired Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and the film adaptation of Gaiman's novel Coraline, to direct The Graveyard Book.[28] After the studio and Selick parted ways over scheduling and development, it was announced in January 2013 that Ron Howard will direct the film.[29]

Graphic novel adaptation[edit]

Artist P. Craig Russell along with Galen Showman, Kevin Nowlan, Jill Thompson, David Lafuente, Stephen Scott, Scott Hampton and Tony Harris has adapted the book into a two-volume graphic novel. The first volume was released on 29 July 2014, followed by the second on 7 October.[30]

See also[edit]



External links[edit]

  1. ^The American writer Sharon Creech previously won both Medals for different books, the 1994 Newbery for Walk Two Moons and the 2002 Carnegie for Ruby Holler.
    • The British CILIP inherited the Library Association children's book awards when it was created by merger of the library and information professionals in 2001. Around that time, the Carnegie Medal restriction to British publishers and British authors (British subjects) was relaxed to permit nomination of all new books published in Britain originally or nearly so (within three months as of 2012). Gaiman was also eligible for the Newbery Medal as he is resident in the United States, although not a citizen.
  1. ^ abCarnegie Winner 2010. Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
    • This retrospective citation of The Graveyard Book for the 2010 Carnegie Medal (Gaiman's text) displays the Children's Edition with cover art by Chris Riddell, whose interior illustration made the 2010 Greenaway Medal shortlist.
  2. ^"The graveyard book" (first edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  3. ^ abcd"Releases for 2010 Awards". Press Desk. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-29.
  4. ^ abc"Gaiman, Neil". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index to Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  5. ^"Neil Gaiman: CILIP Carnegie Medal Winner 2010". Press release 24 June 2010. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-11-05. ("Background on Neil Gaiman and The Graveyard Book" in the releases directory.)
  6. ^"Neil Gaiman Interview: The Graveyard Book". Scottish Book Trust. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  7. ^ abMotoko, Rich (26 January 2009). "'The Graveyard Book' Wins Newbery Medal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  8. ^Grossman, Lev (26 July 2007). "Geek God". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  9. ^ abKerr, Euan (18 October 2008). "Neil Gaiman's Ghostly Baby-Sitters Club". NPR. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
  10. ^Schneider, Dean (Mar 2010). "It Takes a Graveyard to Raise a Child". Book Links. 19 (3): 6–8. 
  11. ^"2008 Locus Awards Winners". Locus Online News. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  12. ^"The view from Chapter 8". Neil Gaiman's Official Blog. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  13. ^"The Graveyard Book" (Adult Edition). lovereading.co.uk.
  14. ^ abGaiman, Neil (30 May 2009). "Finally not a bridesmaid actually". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Retrieved 2012-11-05. 
  15. ^Edinger, Monica (13 February 2009). "Raised by Ghosts". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  16. ^"The Graveyard Book". Kirkus Reviews. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  17. ^Ness, Patrick (25 October 2008). "Ghost Stories". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  18. ^Martin, Tim (2 November 2008). "The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  19. ^Bleilier, Richard.(2004). "21st-Century Gothic", p. 271. Scarecrow Press.
  20. ^Davies, Rebecca (2013-07-31). "Children's Book Blog: Recommended read – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  21. ^"2009 ALSC Award Winners". American Library Association. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  22. ^"2009 Hugo Awaard Winners". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  23. ^Doctorow, Cory (28 June 2009). "2009 Locus Award winners". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  24. ^Flood, Alison (24 June 2010). "Neil Gaiman wins Carnegie Medal". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  25. ^"British Fantasy Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  26. ^"World Fantasy Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  27. ^"The graveyard book" (Children's Edition). WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
    • Unfortunately, this record from a participating library catalogue is linked to the cover image for another title, and WorldCat provides no other record for this edition (ISBN 9780747569015).
  28. ^"Henry Selick To Direct Neil Gaiman's 'The Graveyard Book' In Disney Deal". Deadline.com. April 27, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2012. 
  29. ^"Ron Howard in Talks to Direct Disney's 'Graveyard Book' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. January 22, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  30. ^Melrose, Kevin (2014-02-12). "Get a peek at 'The Graveyard Book,' by P. Craig Russell & Co. | Robot 6 @ Comic Book ResourcesRobot 6 @ Comic Book Resources". Robot6.comicbookresources.com. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 

Who doesn't love a good Neil Gaiman adaptation? The British author is prolific, yet still manages to maintain a consistent quality and eccentricity in his work. The American Gods TV show is now on Starz, but it's far from the only Gaiman adaptation in the works.

A bumper harvest of Neil Gaiman-penned projects are currently in development, and due to arrive on the big and small screen and elsewhere in the next few years. Let's take a look at what has a release date, what is in development, and what might never come to be...

Neil Gaiman Movie Adaptations

Sandman - Development Hell

It's meant with no disrespect to the terrific Coraline and Stardust when saying that Sandman is likely to be the biggest Neil Gaiman project to date at the movies... that is if it ever makes it there.

Originally seemingly moving jollily ahead at New Line Cinema after a switch from Vertigo, The Sandman movie adaptation has suffered its fair share of setbacks in the last few years, with writers Jack Thorne and Eric Heisserer both departing the project. The latter, who left in October of 2016, suggested that the adaptation might make a better TV show than a movie, which is a fair assessment of the sprawling, epic story.

At one point, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was attached to produce, star in, and perhaps direct the film, but he also dropped out last year. Will this adaptation ever make it to some size of screen? We'll keep our ear to the ground.

Hansel & Gretel — Film Rights Acquired

Gaiman's take on Hansel & Gretel arrived in graphic novel form in 2014, and the movie rights to it were promptly snapped up. Juliet Blake, who produced The Hundred-Foot Journey, is the person who's picked them up.

No timescale, screenwriter or director details have been made available since the 2014 acquisition.

How To Talk To Girls At Parties — May 2017 (Cannes Film Festival)

Finally, a Gaiman film adaptation that is definitely happening! Based on a Gaiman short story, How To Talk To Girls At Parties is about a female alien on Earth who finds herself in Croydon. Such is her desire to explore the most dangerous places on the planet.

The film has a great cast, starring Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, and Matt Lucas. 

How To Talk To Girls At Partieswas directed by the very capable John Cameron Mitchell, who co-wrote the script with Philippa Goslett. On his resume? The brilliant Hedwig And The Angry Inch. A24 acquired the U.S. distribution rights, but there is no official release date as of yet.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane — In Development

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is a lovely book, and prior to its publication, it was revealed that the film rights had already been acquired, and a director was attached.

Focus Features is the company that was attached to the film, with the project having been bought by Tom Hanks' production company, Playtone. Joe Wright — who directed Atonement, Hanna, and Anna Karenina amongst others — was said to be attached to direct.

That was back in February 2013, however, and there doesn't appear to have been much progress on the project since then. It looks like a case of wait and see for now.

The Graveyard Book — In Development

This one seems to be stuck in limbo a bit. The original plan with the film adaptation of The Graveyard Book was that Henry Selick — who brilliantly realised Coraline in stop motion animation — would bring it to the screen. Disney had backed the project, but it put the brakes on it back in 2012.

However, since then, it appeared to come back to life as a live-action venture that was attracting the interest of Ron Howard (Rush, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind). Unfortunately that was back in January 2013. Collider asked Howard about the project last year, and the director seemed to have some hope for it as a possible future film. Do with this information what you will.

The Books Of Magic — Development Hell

A project that seems almost permanently stuck in development hell now is an adaptation of Gaiman's comic book miniseries, The Books Of Magic. Plans for a film date back to 1998, when Gaiman himself was attached an executive producer, and Warner Bros had the rights. It would be fair to say that the development process had problems, with both Gaiman and Paul Levitz eventually telling the studio that the screenplay they had developed did not bear much relation to The Books Of Magic anymore.

Back in 2006, Gaiman told Superherohype that he was looking to developing The Books Of Magic into a film or TV series himself, along with writer Matt Greenberg (who'd worked on early scripts for the project). There's been no progress since, sadly.

Signal To Noise — Development Hell

Not much is known about this one. The graphic novel Signal To Noise was one Gaiman did alongside Dave McKean, and the plan was for McKean to turn it into a feature film. As Gaiman says on his own website: "Neil is only helping here and there with it, reading over Dave's script and helping him get financing." He also confirmed that McKean had planned to direct the film. We've not heard more on it for some time, though.

Neil Gaiman TV Adaptations

Interworld — In Development

Originally conceived for screen, Gaiman and Michael Reeves eventually put the Interworld story across in book form, where it was then in turn optioned in 2007 by DreamWorks Animation. 

Last year, it switched from the film to TV track when Universal Cable Productions announced that it would be developing Interworld into a TV show. The TV adaptation has Hamilton producers Jeffrey Seller and Flody Suarez in its corner, but we've not had any updates on the project since last summer. More news as we hear it.

Anansi Boys — In Development

Production company Red was announced in 2014 as developing a mini-series adaptation of Anansi Boys for the BBC. However, now that Starz/Freemantle is producing American Gods, that plan seems somewhat confused?

We've heard mentions of Red developing Anansi Boys as a TV show from Gaiman over the years, but, recently, Orlando Jones (who plays Anansi in American Gods) told Vanity Fair that Fuller and Green "wanted to spin it off and pursue that character." Either way, things are looking pretty good for Anansi Boys, depending on how American Gods does.

Good Omens — 2018 (Amazon)

A six-part TV adaptation of Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's bestselling book is coming to Amazon next year before airing on the BBC in the UK. Gaiman is serving as showrunner for the miniseries, which will bring the story of an angel and a demon coming together to try to prevent the apocalypse to the screen.

Neverwhere — In Development

Back in 2015, Deadline gave us all hope when it reported that US movie and TV producer Mark Gordon has joined forces with The Hunger Gamesdirector Francis Lawrence on a new TV adaptation of Neverwhere, an urban fantasy that takes place in "London Below."

Neverwhere began life as a 1996 TV series (featuring Peter Capaldi!) before being turned into a successful novelization and radio drama. Given that Gaiman has announced a Neverwhere sequel called The Seven Sisters, the timing has never been better for a TV adaptation of this beloved fantasy work. 

Missing, Presumed Dead Adaptations


Gaiman's Smoke And Mirrors short story has actually turned up online in film form as a finals film project by a student at Boston University, which you can see here. However, back in 2002, Harvey Weinstein took out an option on the story, with the idea of writing and directing it himself. It was set to be a short film, but it never, ultimately, happened.

Death: The High Cost Of Living

Warner Bros had been developing this one, potentially as a project for Neil Gaiman to direct himself. Rumors had linked Shia LaBeouf with the male lead, but as Gaiman told Vulturein 2010: "The new powers that be at DC and Warner basically closed everything down."

Whilst Gaiman has admitted it may yet come back to life, it doesn't sound like breath-holding is a good idea. Not, er, that it is at the best of times.

The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish

A good decade old this project, when Sunbow Entertainment looked to do an animated television adaptation of The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish. Sunbow was seeking financing for the project, and footage was reportedly produced, but it didn't get much further. A shame — the plan had been to mix 2D, 3D and photographic elements, with 2D hand drawn characters on top. Not to be, though. Sob.

Murder Mysteries

This one was adapted by David S. Goyer, who told SciFi Wire back in 2004: "I think it's the best script I've ever written." He planned to direct the film take on Murder Mysteries, but the project stalled — and has remained stalled — when a studio wouldn't back it. No word has been heard on a MurderMysteries film for a good decade.

Please note: This article does not include released projects, or scripts that Gaiman has written based on other peoples' books.

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