However unexpected, the award is certainly deserved. Gaiman's The Graveyard Book stands as one of the most inventive, delightful books I've ever read. Aw, what the heck? I'm going to come right out and say it: This book is fabulous. Stop reading this review. Grab your keys. Hop in your car and head to the nearest bookstore. Don't waste time on library waiting lists. You want a copy of this book, and you want it now. What are you still doing here? I'm not kidding. Get thee to the closest bookseller and purchase this book. You will not regret it.
Okay, now that I'm talking to myself, let's rehash the story: One black night, a shadowy man kills three members of a family while they sleep (yes, this year's Newbery winner starts with a triple murder). His hunt for the last member - an 18-month-old baby - proves unsuccessful, as the child has tottered out the back door. Unaware of the tragedy that has befallen him, or the shadowy man who tracks him, the toddler climbs a nearby hill, seeking adventure. At the top of the hill sits an old graveyard, the residents of which are startled to discover a live baby in their midst. Sensing danger, a kindly ghost snatches up the child, vowing to protect him. The boy is granted Freedom of the Graveyard, which gives him invisibility from the living and protection among the dead. His new mother names him Nobody Owens, and proceeds to nurture him the best she knows how. With the help of Silas, a creature who dwells on the border between life and death, the graveyard ghosts raise "Bod," teaching him history (from firsthand accounts), manners (which haven't changed all that much through the centuries), ghostly tricks (Fading, Dreamwalking and Haunting) and language (everyone should know how to call for help in the tongue of the ghouls).
When Bod meets Scarlett, a living girl about his age who is playing in the graveyard, he feels alive for the first time. When she moves away, he is devastated. Desperate for some more interaction with his own kind, Bod begs Silas for permission to attend the neighborhood school. Knowing the man who killed Bod's family is still at large, Silas reluctantly agrees, but warns Bod to keep a very low profile. It's not long, however, before he is standing up to the school bullies, drawing more attention to himself than is wise. His bravery gets him into a fat lot of trouble - soon, it's back to solitary confinement in the graveyard.
If you followed my advice, you may already know how The Graveyard Book ends. If you didn't, then what are you waiting for? Trust me - you don't want to miss this most unlikely Newbery winner. A fun, family-friendly tale from the master of all things macabre - really, what more can a reader ask for? Nothing. So get off the computer and stick your nose in this book. It's so good, it's spooky :)