A murderer has killed an entire family except the little baby, who has wandered out of his crib and to the nearby graveyard during the process. There he is protected and raised by the denizens of the cemetery (ghosts and more) during many years, as he runs up against enemies new and old and has marvelous experiences.
The book is clever and creative: At one point, Bod (the baby is named Nobody Owens on his first night) is kidnapped by ghouls and enters their alternative world on an absolutely wild adventure. The book is funny: Towards the end of the book, I could not help laughing as I listened to Nehemiah Trott, the deceased poet, describe his vengeance on a literary critic who didn’t appreciate Trott’s verse: He posted a letter saying he wouldn’t publish any more of his amazing poetry, saving it for posterity instead: Served the critic right! This just preceded by a line from Bod like, “And who better to trust than a poet?” (Maybe a non-delusional poet.) There is an indulgent schoolyard-vengeance episode where Bod uses his special graveyard skills to achieve justice at a local school. The supporting characters, Bod’s guardian Silas, Silas’s friend Miss Lupesky, and the ghosts of the graveyard, are fabulous.
The pacing is excellent. Gaiman intersperses stand-alone tales (like the ghoul abduction) with the ongoing subplot involving the killer who killed Bod’s family.
I listened to the unabridged audio version, narrated by the author, and I’m so glad. He did a fabulous job.
This is the best book and most fun I’ve had in a while. (I found another Gaiman book very funny a few years ago: Good Omens, which was more pure funny.)
Note on content: This is not for little children (e.g., my five year old); the villain in this story is a ruthless serial killer. Gaiman is very careful not to show any blood or violence, but there is the threat of violence several places, and several other places that are scary in other ways.