When a mysterious stranger kills a one-year-old boy’s family he wants to finish the job, but the adventurous boy wanders into the graveyard, where he is protected by ghosts. They decide to adopt him, name him Nobody or Bod for short, and bring him up. Through encounters with ghosts and ghouls, mysterious beings and even the real human world he learns everything he needs to know for when the killer comes back to finish the job.
This is a kids book – and it was great! It’s well put together, thought through, intriguing and satisfying from start to finish. A very well formed growing-up story, with interesting characters and events and the safe-spooky feel of Tim Burton.
Though it’s not all safe-spooky. The first scene is a shock, especially when you are expecting a kids’ book, and though it is the most frightening in the book I’m sure it wouldn’t have made it past my Mum’s book-filter. And even if it had, it would have been the cause of many a sleepless night. (I was a wimp. Still am.) I’d probably give the book a higher reading age, therefore, than the actual language, cover and story suggest.
One thing I love about Gaiman’s fantasy is the lack of explanation. The world is not laid out before us or given a long history – it simply is. We simply accept that the ghosts can teach Bod some of their tricks; that the creature in the cave is waiting for a Master and that This is the way things work. It allows the edge of the worlds and of your imagination breathing space, and isn’t tied up in rules. You are invited to imagine rather than question.
The illustrations in this version are a bit disappointing, but I see there’s another out there – hopefully you’ll read that one.
I have little else to say. Apparently the book was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, as you can probably tell even from the summary. It’s a fun, satisfying and very readable story, that makes me even more keen to read Gaiman’s latest, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.