Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

First lines. I’m a fan. I always take notice of a novel’s first line.

Can you guess these books from their first lines?

a. “Where's Papa going with that ax?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”
b. "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
c. "It wasn’t there. Then it was.”

The Graveyard Book’s begins like this:

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”

The man named Jack held the blood stained knife while his free hand shook the gate to the cemetery. On the other side of that gate crawled Jack’s prey, crawling on his hands and knees. A figure appeared next to the toddler, like a shimmer or of a faint outline of a person.

The shimmering figure said,

“My baby! He is trying to harm my baby! Protect my Son!”

The child reached for the figure but found nothing but air. “Freshly dead” she was, the ghost of the toddler’s mother.

The man named Jack approached the child when “it seemed as if a swirl of mist had curled around the child, in the moonlight, and that the boy was no longer there: just damp mist and moonlight and swaying grass.”

The man named Jack was puzzled. This graveyard had secrets. It almost seemed as if the shadows were protecting the child.

Jack expected to hear the child cry or at least hear it move. He did not expect the silky smooth voice behind him to say:

“Can I help you?"

Jack was a tall man, but this man was taller. Jack wore dark clothes. This man wore darker clothes. When other people were around Jack, they would find themselves troubled, uncomfortable, and fear would enter their minds. Jack looked up to the man he assumed was the caretaker of the cemetery, and this time he was the one that was troubled.

Jack put his right hand into his coat pocket to hide his knife so it was hidden, but could be ready in an instant.

The caretaker escorted Jack out of the graveyard as Jack walked behind. Jack slowly raised his knife into the air.

The caretaker also puzzled Jack, and during that brief moment of thought Jack realized that somehow the caretaker had already swung open the gate and Jack was standing outside the cemetery.

Jack slipped his knife into its inner sheath, and said, “Good night.”

It's been awhile since I've seen a first chapter from a book present so many questions I wanted to find the answers to, such as: How did that innocent child escape his fate that night? How did the shadows keep them hidden-were they shadows or something else? Why does Jack want him dead? Will Jack be back to pay another visit to the cemetery? Who was the man that even Jack was afraid of? And, of course, how does a toddler without his family survive in a graveyard all alone?

The questions Neil Gaiman, in The Graveyard Book, leaves the reader in chapter 1 are definitely worth finding the answers to.

Here's a review I found helpful: Fuse #8

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