Anyone who knows me personally know about my love for Neil Gaiman. He is an amazing author for all the right reasons. His work is wonderful experiments in format, theme, and traditional literary features. BUT! It also tends to be fun and relatively straightforward reading. The combination of these two areas is very rare in every single genre and age range.
Gaiman’s main young adult book that is one of my favorites of all time is The Graveyard Book. The story follows a strange boy named Bod (full name Nobody) who is the only living inhabitant in a graveyard. The ultimate Gaiman twist in the book is that creatures that normally should inspire fear (ghosts, vampires, etc) are actually the “good” guys. The bad side of things is much more complicated though.
Basically, this book is more of a fantastical version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. In fact, if any high school teachers are reading this post, know that a comparison study of the two books would be AWESOME! You get the classic Kipling shoved against the newer and more fast paced Gaiman.
The Graveyard Book has won tons of awards too, including Gaiman’s first Newbery Medal (since he just gained official U.S. citizenship to be eligible for the award before the book was released). It is great for a wide range of readers from reluctant to seasoned due to the multiple layers that can be analyzed depending on the reader’s personal level.
Bring It to Life (BITL)!
Make your own ghost family!
The ghosts take great care of Bod and are amazing teachers. A great craft associated with The Graveyard Book is to make your own ghosts. My personal favorite is the cheesecloth technique.
- Black felt
- Craft or fabric glue
- 4 Cups water
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- Various tall cups
- Fishing Wire or Thread
- First make the liquid starch. Heat 3 3/4 c water to a boil. Mix the remaining 1/4 c of water and the cornstarch together. When the water just reaches the boiling point, stir in the cornstarch mixture. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- After the starch is cool, cut various shapes of cheesecloth. Dip the cloth in the starch. Squeeze out excess starch and drape over various cups to make ghostly shapes. The addition of a small ball or balloon to the cup can make a more rounded center shape. You can make small ones to hang or larger ones which will stand on their own. Wait for them to dry.
- Once dry, carefully remove them from the cups. Sometimes they will stick a bit, but just gently peel them. Glue on felt eyes and hang wherever you want with the fishing wire or thread.