Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard was just announced as the Newbery Medal Winner. Amazingly, it’s about the only book on the long list of potential titles that I actually read. I often thought about blogging on it over the past month — it was an interesting book, and I wanted to talk about it — but I decided that I didn’t really want to review children’s books on this site, especially when Six Innings was mentioned by a (very) few as a potential far-flung dark horse candidate. For the record, I never thought so and didn’t even hope, but I felt very glad to be read and considered. After many years of writing the Jigsaw Jones mystery series, I began to get the idea that no adult or librarian or even (most troubling) the editors in my own publishing company read them critically. So I felt truly honored just to somehow squeeze into that Great Conversation with my first hardcover novel, published by Jean Feiwel at Feiwel and Friends. I’ll forever be grateful to Jean for that leap of faith and the great opportunity she gave me to write the best book I possibly could at the time.
I’m happy for my fourth-grade son, Gavin, who is just now in the middle of reading The Graveyard at my urgent, badgering request. They make a big deal out of the Newbery in school, and I’m sure he’ll be proud to say that he’s currently reading it. Cool factor ten. Gavin started it a couple of weeks ago, and interrupted that twice for the latest Wimpy Kid and Knuckleheads. My oldest son, Nick, age 15, also read it on my recommendation. I also urged Liz Szabla to read The Graveyard, and emailed my friend Greg Ruth with the same recommendation.
Should it have won? I have no idea, given my pathetic reading record, though I’m not at all surprised. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed The Graveyard, I did see it as episodic, with a couple of chapters that didn’t work (for me), in that they seemed kind of stand-alone pieces that were wedged into the larger narrative. I also felt that the Harry Potter echoes were at times too strong. We never really learned why Bod’s family was murdered, and I felt it odd that Bod never seemed to really desire to unravel that huge mystery. He never seemed to ask: Why? But I guess we’ll get that in the sequel.
In the end, congratulations Mr. Gaiman, a writer I truly respect and admire, whose blog is an inspiration. I’m quite sure that young readers (4th grade and up, I’m guessing) will very much enjoy this book. It’s fast, exciting, singular in mood, creative, heartfelt, utterly contemporary, and very well-written. And it has a great first sentence: “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”
Congratulations also to Honor Winners: Kathi Appelt (The Underneath), Margarita Engle (The Surrender Tree), Ingrid Law (Savvy), and Jacqueline Woodson (After Tupac and D. Foster).